One of the things I think we don’t emphasize enough as a society is the importance of being kind to everyone. This was drilled into me not only by my parents but by a very important role model in my life who practiced what he preached. And I don’t think it’s said enough: everyday acts of kindness are important. So I’m going to share my story with you.
I have had body image issues since I hit puberty at nine years old. I was made fun of by all of my classmates not only for my intelligence but also for my body and more than anything else, the bullying over my looks stuck to me more than anything else. It has dogged me my entire life. Fast forward to two years ago when I had to find a dress to go to the opera.
Shopping is stressful enough for me as it is but because of the limited shopping in my area there were very few dresses to be found. I had gone to four different shops and was on the fifth shop, frustrated at trying on dozens of dresses and having those horrible memories of my bullying resurface over a decade later. I was in the changing room in this fifth shop trying on yet another dress and wanting to break down into tears because I felt like I was twelve years old again and being criticized for not having C-cup breasts. I was taken back to when I was fifteen and didn’t want to go to the beach anymore because everyone in my class laughed at my ‘thunder thighs’. And I was reliving every single romantic rejection over and over again.
But I had to find a dress.
The worst part about the whole thing was that there was no mirror in my changing stall. I had to get out of the stall, face the other women trying on clothes and walk all the way to the end of the hall which was really only about 10 feet long but felt like a mile at the time. So I started the slow walk down the hallway, forcing myself to keep my head up but really wanting to crawl into the fetal position and sob my guts out. As I came nearer to the mirror I noticed a woman also looking at herself in the mirror, also trying on a dress. When I was just a couple of feet away this woman saw me in the mirror and her face broke out into the most beautiful, most sincere smile I’ve ever seen. She turned to me and said,
That nearly tipped me over the edge but I managed to smile back at her and say ‘thank you’. I managed to look at myself in the mirror and not see my perceived flaws. I saw a beautiful young woman in a dress that flattered her. So I ended up buying that dress and another one in the same style but a different colour.
What this woman did didn’t even take up a minute of her life but it had such a profound impact on me. I began to finally confront my body image issues. I accepted that I will never be 5’10” and 120lbs with a C-cup. After all those years of hating myself for how I looked, I finally began to accept how I looked and I learned to stop hating myself.
All because a woman took a few seconds out of her day to tell a complete stranger she was beautiful.
I can’t emphasize enough that being kind to everyone is so important. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that everyone (and I mean everyone) wears a mask in public so you can’t see their innermost self. And behind those masks people can hide some pretty major things: depression, suicidal ideas, body image issues, etc. So be kind to everyone because you never know what they’re going through. Even the most basic human decency can change a person’s life.
I’m the living, breathing proof of that.