“Pretty nails,” my friend’s four-year-old daughter told me as she ran a finger across my fingernails one night. My friend lives a lot closer to my office than I do, so I periodically spend the night at her house when I’m tired of driving so much.
“Next time I come I’ll bring some nail polish and paint your nails if you’d like,” I told her. She nodded with a grin.
The next time I stayed at their house I brought a few different bottles of nail polish with me–all in her favorite colors–and painted her nails.
“I’M SO PRETTY.”
The next morning she had an appointment at the preschool she’ll attend this fall. As everyone got ready, she spun around the house in the dress she was wearing for the day, staring down at her nails. “I’m so pretty!” I heard her repeat.
Yes, you are, I thought. Don’t ever stop telling yourself that.
It’s hard to hold onto that thought as we get older and start listening to the world’s influence. Society tells us what we should look like to be beautiful, but there’s no one size fits all when it comes to the billions of people that live on our planet. How can we say, “This is what beauty is” and have that definition apply to even a fraction of people?
Not only that, but we’re surrounded by voices that tell us how we can fix this feature and that feature. We’re told to focus on our “flaws” and the parts of ourselves we don’t like, instead of the features we do like. Is it any wonder that we have such a hard time looking in the mirror and saying, “I am beautiful.”
And this is still only skin deep. There is so much more to us than what appears on the outside. This little girl is not only beautiful on the outside, but she’s sweet and spunky. She loves her friends, lives life to the fullest, and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself–whether it’s her brother when he takes her coloring book during church, or her dog when he takes a piece of food off her plate.
“I’M GOING TO BE AWESOME!”
“Why don’t you wear your white sandals?” her mom suggested and pulled them out as we all prepared to leave the house.
She looked down at the array of little shoes on a mat by the door. “What shoes should I wear?”
“Choose whatever pair you’d like,” her mom said.
She looked up at me, “What shoes should I wear?”
“I like your white sandals,” I told her and she plopped down to put them on.
My arms were full when I reached the door, so she held it open for me, and the rest of her family came out of the house behind us. As I walked toward my car I heard her say, “I’m going to be awesome!”
I thought about that on my drive to work. I’ve always found ways to boost my confidence when I was off to an important appointment. For a while I always wore a necklace that I got while I was in Senegal to remind myself that I got through one experience that pushed me outside of my comfort zone and it was one of the greatest experiences ever. As I searched for my first job post-college my mantra for each interview was, “Mermaid confidence!” (Maybe a post on mermaid confidence should come soon?) Even now, I curl my hair, or wear a certain outfit, or do my makeup a certain way when I need an extra confidence boost.
One thing I’ve never tried is stating, “I’m going to be awesome!” If I did, I wouldn’t be able to say it with the confidence my little four-year-old friend had.
But what if I said that to myself as I walk out the door in the morning? Would it give me an extra boost to start my day? Would it drown out the negative voices that so often shout over the positive ones? Would I start to believe it? Would I one day be able to say that phrase with the confidence she did?
And what about: “I’m beautiful.” What if I told myself, “I’m beautiful” when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning instead of focusing on the redness in my cheeks or the little tuft of hair that never lays the way I want it to, even when I curl it.
What if you told yourself these things each day? Let’s channel this four-year-old girl and say them together: “I am beautiful and I’m going to be awesome.” Let’s say them together until we can say them with confidence.
“I am beautiful and I’m going to be awesome.”
And after you tell yourself that, tell a friend.
Because you know what?
You’re beautiful and you’re going to be awesome.