I used to be so afraid of wearing backless things like this shirt. I thought I’d be judged for being risqué or something (Hey, I was a church kid!). I have gotten plenty of unkind comments or jabs for my style over the years, and I tried so hard to avoid them by doing my best to fit in.
Then one day, I realized how unhappy I was with the clothes I was wearing and had been wearing. I didn’t feel like me. Sure, I was being accepted by those around me, but it was for being a person I was not.
So, I started taking more risks. At first, I admit they were small risks — almost indiscernible. But over time, with each risk I grew more confident in myself and started taking more.
And when I finally died my hair grey, I started getting my first real judgements from the previous acceptors, so-to-speak. That’s when I knew I was doing something right. Although no one likes being judged for their personal taste and ideas, it was freeing to be myself.
I also started learning who my real friends and supporters were, and who weren’t. Some really surprised me, some didn’t. But it became a sort of weeding out process. People’s true colors were being revealed and it felt good that it was getting all out in the open.
I was finally saying, “Here I am in all my honesty, love me or leave me.”
As much as this post is about encouraging you to also dress and talk and be your real true self, it’s also about reminding all of us (myself included) just how powerful love and acceptance and encouraging words are.
When I colored my hair some people said, “Wow Jess! I love it! You’re beautiful!” and it bolstered my heart. Others said, “I don’t really like that on you,” and it made me feel like crap.
The encouragers were the people I started wanting to spend more time around. They also were people I wanted to open up to. The criticizers were the ones I wanted to avoid as well as, open up with as little as possible.
How do you want to affect the people around you? Do you want them to leave your presence feeling more special, more loved, more beautiful, more fabulous than when they arrived? Or do you want to give your negative critiques, making them feel worse than when they showed up, all for the sake of your own feelings of being right?
Do you want deep connections and lasting relationships that have meaning? Or do you want to push people away with your unsolicited advice?
Each word that comes out of our mouths has the power to love or to harm, to build up or tear down. Before we speak we must ask ourselves, “Is this comment worth it? Is it going to improve the moment for them and me? Is it going to lighten their heart and make them feel more loved?” If not, we must deeply consider whether it’s necessary at all.
Now, I’m not shooting down the idea of truth. Sometimes we all need a hard word from a friend (Though, there’s a big difference between a hard word of truth, and a petty criticism). But my point is, you can’t give a hard word if you aren’t trusted as a true friend in the first place.
So be a true friend. Leave the petty criticisms at home and embrace letting others’ differences shine. It’s what makes our world such a beautifully colorful place.
“Speak only if it improves the silence.” — Mahatma Gandhi