When you let yourself believe that you’re beautiful

I’ve always loved Target, but now it’s become an even more special place to me.

Because it’s a place where you can remind others just how beautiful and loved they are.

I was at the remarkable store the other day in the travel-sized items area because I know my priorities and needed a mini can of hairspray to have in my purse at all times. I started looking through my purse to make sure that I had enough toothpaste still left in there, as well, and then I lingered even longer when I started listening more intently to the conversation two teenage girls were having near me.

They were talking about an upcoming school dance they were about to have, and one of the girls (I’m going to name her Kirsten) was asking her friend (let’s go with Shelby) if she was going with some guy. The ensuing conversation went down right there at the end of the aisle of heartache and insecurity.

Shelby: No, I don’t think so.
Kirsten: Why not? You know you want to.
Shelby: Because he’s probably gonna go with Mykala. He was flirting with her a lot yesterday at lunch, and she’s so pretty. He doesn’t like me.
Kirsten: (says not-so-nice comments about Mykala that I’m not going to repeat
)

My heart broke. Did Shelby think that she wasn’t pretty enough to go with this boy? And Kirsten forgot to remind Shelby how beautiful she is and provide her with a bit of affirmation. I obviously needed to say something.

As I walked by them, I paused and said to Shelby: “You’re beautiful and should ask him, anyway.” And, even though she initially gave me one of those “I don’t want you all up in my business” looks and then muttered a sheepish “thanks,” I hope it encouraged her even just a little. (Yes, I do realize that it’s not always my place to jump in on other people’s conversations, but sometimes I do it—just ask anyone in my building who’s ever been in the elevator with me.)

I remember being Shelby’s age and feeling the same way she feels—like the other girls were prettier, and there was no way that any guy was ever going to want to go to a dance with me or date me. That’s why I always kept my crushes hidden (except for that one time I didn’t, and the guy I liked at the time wanted to make fun of me for having a crush on him). It caused me pain to hear the unhopeful tone in her voice as she told her friend that the guy she likes doesn’t feel the same way.

Charlie Brown was so right: “There’s nothing like unrequited love to drain all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich.”

And that was right after good ol’ Chuck had told his best buddy Linus that the Little Red-Haired Girl didn’t notice him because he was “nothing.” Oy. WHY MUST YOU BREAK MY HEART, CHARLIE BROWN? I hope that Shelby doesn’t think of herself the same way that sweet CB sees himself.

Monique is obviously gorgeous on the outside but also has such a beautiful heart.

It’s hard not to feel that way sometimes, though. I can think of too many times when I felt like I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or popular enough or whatever enough to have even the slimmest chances to end up with the guys I liked in high school. And I wish that it had ended there—but it didn’t. I spent more years in college and in my 20s still thinking that I was lacking all of the things a young woman needed to catch the eye of any fella. I was eating nothing but bland peanut butter sandwiches.

And then something changed in my heart, which eventually helped to change my mind. I wish that I could say that those doubts never returned, but I’m a human woman, and they have a tendency to resurface every once in a while. I’ve gotten a lot better about getting rid of those thoughts, though, and replacing them with affirmations of who I am, rather than what I’m not.

My friend Monique gave me some solid advice recently. We were talking about something completely different, but I’m going to start applying it to almost every area of my life.

“If one of your nieces told you this, what would you say to her?”

I hope that sweet Evie always smiles when she sees her reflection.

If Olivia or Evie ever tried to tell me that she saw herself in a negative way or that she wasn’t good enough for someone, I would immediately refute those lies and replace them with the truth of how wonderfully made she is and how precious and valued she is. I would tell either of them: “Don’t talk about my niece that way.” (Thank you to my friend Ana for telling our book club that her husband always says “don’t talk about my wife that way” when she says something negative about herself.)

And maybe that’s something that we should say to ourselves more often: Don’t talk about myself that way.

I hope that Shelby got the courage to ask that boy to the dance. And, even if she didn’t, I hope that she eventually believes that she is beautiful and enough as she is, regardless of whether or not some guy feels the same way about her that she feels about him.

I hope that you know that your worth isn’t determined by what other people think, either. You have your own unique gifts and your own unique look, and you’re beautiful as you are. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

And please don’t ever get the same mindset as our friend Charlie Brown and think that you’re nothing—you’re more something special than you may know, and I hope that your peanut butter sandwich always has an abundance of flavor.

When you’re comfortable being the real you

I think it’s important for people not to be afraid to be different from those around them.

Because our differences make us unique.

My brother was in San Diego last week for a work conference, so I drove down there Monday night to have dinner with him. It’s very rare that any of my family members are in California, so I didn’t mind making the trek on a work night.

When I got to his hotel (which was where the conference was, as well), he was at a networking event. I got tired of waiting in the lobby, so I decided to find out where he was exactly. I befriended some women who were at the check-in table, and one of them led me out to the terrace where the event was. After making my way about halfway around the area, I spotted him chatting with a few people and didn’t want to interrupt. I had two options: I could stand around by myself and pretend to be looking at something interesting on my phone, or I could go talk to some of these people who probably didn’t want to talk about the things I wanted to discuss with them (you know, like the non-work-related stuff).

I obviously chose the latter.

Maybe my lack of lanyard with a nametag was a dead giveaway that I was an outsider.

I joined in a conversation with Nader and Randy, two older gentlemen who were very interested in their roles in the healthcare industry. After I asked a bunch of questions about their personal lives, they asked me what I do for a living. I had a brief moment when I thought about fibbing a little and playing the part of someone in their line of work who belonged at the conference, but then I remembered that I don’t like lying and that I’ve learned that it’s always better to be yourself in every situation ever.

I told them that I’m a proposal writer and was going to leave it at that, but they wanted to know more. I said I write for an infrastructure company, and they assumed it was hospital-related. I clarified and let them know that it was construction and infrastructure. Their facial expressions said exactly what I knew both of them wanted to say to me in that moment: What the hell are you doing here? So I smiled and then made Randy, who now lives in the Midwest, tell me all about his years of living in Texas.

I hated middle school, and looking back on those years makes me dislike almost everything about the person I was back then. I was selfish and constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t. I think that I was so insecure about who I really was that I was completely afraid to be me. I’ve accepted who I am, and while it’s healthy to grow and make changes in your life that are needed in order to better your life and your character, I also think that it’s important to be comfortable being you—no matter how messy and imperfect that person is.

Each sunset is unique and wonderful—just like all of us.

You don’t have to be afraid to be you. If you’re always acting like someone you’re not, then people will never really know the real you. For me, I want to know people fully and be fully known myself. I know that being open can place you in a rather vulnerable position, and there are certainly times to be a bit more guarded, but I think there’s value in letting people know the real you—the one we don’t necessarily see on Instagram. It can also help them to be more comfortable being more open with you, as well.

It doesn’t mean that everyone will expect you to be completely real with them, and they might not know how to respond at times. Take the woman in the bathroom at my work last week. She works in the company next to mine, and I’ve seen her in there before, but she’s not one of the ones I’ve gotten to know very well (I’ve had a lunch with some of them and text a few of them pretty regularly). Two of my buddies who work with me had just jokingly insulted me, and I was not acting dramatic about it at all. When I walked into the bathroom, the exchange below occurred.

Me: Hi! How’s it going?
Bathroom buddy: I’m good. How are you?
Me: Hurt and betrayed (again, not said in an overly dramatic voice by any means).
BB: (stares at me confused for a few seconds and then turns and walks out).

Neither of us was expecting what had just happened. I had to shrug it off. I’m not for everyone—and that’s OK. You probably won’t be for everyone, either. But, if you pretend to be someone else, that person also won’t be for everyone, so you might as well just stick with the original you.

You were made to be you on purpose. You’re where you are right now for a reason. The experiences you’ve had—both good and bad, wonderful and trying—haven’t been for nothing. Don’t hide behind a pretty life filter. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, even if that means that you’re quite different from everyone around you.

Because different can be truly beautiful.