Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recapturing the Beauty of Compliments.

You've been here: "Oh my gosh, your bag/shirt/umbrella is so cute, where did you get it?"
But how often have you been here: "You just have such a way with people. You are so compassionate and genuine! I really appreciate that about you."
Yeah, that's what I thought.

Compliments regarding bags/shirts/umbrellas are not evil. We appreciate them. But do we compliment the superficial at the expense of the internal?
Because I'll tell you what: the high from a hair compliment keeps me going for about two minutes, and I really enjoy those two minutes. But after that? The sensation is gone, and I'm left to scour the world for another hairdo worth another compliment for another two minutes of glory.
When someone gives me a genuine compliment about a quality I have, a trait I've tried to develop, or how I handled a situation, I'm beaming for weeks. Not only do I feel warm fuzzies toward this person for complimenting me, I feel deeply connected. Deep connections with others are not only linked to happiness, but are basically what we live our lives for, yes?

I'd like to pursue that avenue. I'd like to focus on the inner beauty of the people in my life, not in a sappy-lame-oh-so-sweet-spirit way, but in a way that hones in on the unique characteristics that make people truly beautiful, beyond Photoshop and one-size-fits-all.

beautifulwomenPhotographing the "I Am Beautiful Because..." project, I have seen beauty in a way I have never seen it before in my life. And I've seen a lot of beauty, I'll tell you. To say it's been eye opening would be a gross understatement, and I struggle to describe my experience with words. I have met women I probably never would have met otherwise. I have seen them be vulnerable in front of a camera, some more self-conscious than others. I have heard them tell me their plans for the future, their hopes and their dreams that were created from nights lying awake in bed, prayers on knees and tears and cheeks. Even though we only had twenty minutes together, I felt deeply connected to each woman, because the nature of what we were doing together cracked her open enough for me to see her, really see her.
And then I had this crazy epiphany.
That all this stuff I talk about really isn't a load of manure.

That it really is true.

That every single person really is beautiful.

These women brought me their crooked teeth, their gray hairs, their imperfect eyes that needed glasses for seeing, their bodies not shaped like ones in magazines--some pregnant, some having born children, some crinkled with age. The beauty of imperfection was right there: in the connection we shared. I saw those wrinkles and I thought about proof of living. I saw those bodies, soft from babies and I thought about sacrifice.

I complimented and I meant it.
I feel blessed to have been a witness to all of you women opening yourselves up enough to share something precious with me. It has been a rare joy.
What's the best compliment you've ever received?


  1. The best compliment I've ever gotten was when my dad told me he thought I was beautiful the day I graduated from high school. He's usually really quiet and doesn't give compliments very freely, so it meant a lot.

  2. It means so much to me when people tell me that I'm a good mother. Maybe it's because they can't hear me cursing in the middle of the night, but it always makes me think "I am doing pretty well, aren't I? And I can do better."

    And once one of my girl friends was over and said "You are a really wonderful wife and homemaker. I hope I can be as good to my husband as you are to yours."
    And I think about it ALL THE TIME, and it was over a year ago.