The bra community over at reddit is really tightly fused with the body image community, and I’ve found really similar, if sometimes indirect, sentiments in bra blogs out here too.
One thing that I see lots of people promote is to be able to maintain your self esteem with internal strength, and to not base your confidence on the opinions of other people. At the same time, if someone compliments you, it’s important and healthy to be able to accept it and let it affect you in a good way.
There’s one compliment that I’ve held onto and treasured for a long time.
The most important thing you need to know about the person who gave it is that she’s very intelligent, extremely talented, very strong, really sweet, and she will not take your bullshit. So, if she says that you are adorable, it is a fact that you are adorable. If you ask whether or not you should skip class because you can’t do it today and she says skip, you do not go to class today. (In conclusion, she’s cool, I love her, and her words are not to be taken lightly unless she says them with the special look.)
There are also some things to know about the era during which this compliment was given. I was rounding out a really intense and emotionally exhausting bout of eczema. I’d never had skin conditions before, and then boom! Flaky, angry skin all over one side of my face and along my arm of the same side. The one thing that softened my initial horror was that I have a very good friend who’s been balancing perpetual eczema all her life, so I did have people to go to for good help. She and a mutual friend, another amazing woman I’ve known forever, really helped me with accepting it as something that happened, dealing with it and with finding products to treat my sudden eczema. (Unfortunately, to this day I have no idea what the trigger was.)
The eczema did not go away for several months. Although I dealt with it, I hated it. I wasn’t the person to go around thinking I was pretty, but eczema on my face crushed me deep. I went to a dermatologist and per her suggestions, switched all my laundry detergent and body washes. I went to a Chinese doctor and drank unfortunate amounts of unbelievably bitter medicine. Nothing helped. I’d never thought of myself as vain, but I cried almost every night at the thought that I’d be red, flaky, bumpy, itchy and disgusting for the rest of my life.
Now that you have all this overly detailed context, I’ll treat you to the compliment, gifted unto me one day at recitation:
“Please don’t be offended, because this is a common and legitimate question where I’m from, but… are you pregnant? You’re kind of glowing.”
I cannot express in words how absolutely charmed I was. It was a particularly bad time in my life as far as body image (I was almost nearing the end, but I didn’t know that!) and I was completely floored to hear something good, delivered so matter-of-factly, about my appearance.
We’d just met that semester, so I admit that at that time I didn’t think of her the same way I think of her now (as in, I wasn’t quite as familiar with her Superwoman-ness) but that sometimes makes a compliment stronger; someone you don’t know that well doesn’t have a deceptive reason to make you feel better just out of the blue.
Usually, I’d want to dissect how and why this is so amazing… but I really just like to remember the organic whole of this and smile.
By the way, I wasn’t pregnant. In case that was in question.
(I’m glad to report that the eczema has left and I have not seen signs of a return since its happy departure.)