Lazy Sundays: Small Kindnesses Make a Big Difference

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,

“You’re beautiful!”

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.

 

7 comments

  1. Topaz

    Oh my goodness, this is possibly the most important thing I have ever read. As someone who struggles with mental illness, I think I can relate – just a moment of kindness from someone else can alleviate so many fears. It’s the most incredible thing in the world, I believe, that we have such impact on each other, and being kind always can certainly help to make that impact a good and long-lasting one.

    • Carrie Slager

      (Sorry for the late reply. I really wanted to consider my words here.)

      Yeah, it’s odd how just one moment of kindness from a stranger can mean so much more to a person than the assurances and support of their closest friends and family. I don’t know about the psychology behind it but I don’t think my case is an isolated one. One of the most important things to remember when you’re struggling is that no matter what, you’re never really truly alone with your struggle(s) in the internet age.

  2. cav12

    Well said Carrie and sorry to read what you went through. I don’t condone bullies and nastiness. The way I see it, these individuals have short-comings and in order to feel good about themselves lash out at vulnerable young people. You’ve done exceedingly well to move on and excel.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thanks Luciana. I think many of my bullies did have shortcomings of their own but the traditional bully who comes from a bad home really wasn’t true in my case. They all came from very good, sometimes upper middle class homes. That’s why when the bullying finally stopped I was bitter for a lot of years because all of the internet advice said to think of what the bullies go through at home that makes them so awful–except my tormentors had better home lives than I did.

      Other than the self-esteem issues I think it was that bitterness and cynicism with humanity in general that really was the hardest part to move past. It’s odd but it is true.

      • cav12

        Unfortunately, bullies are not your usual stereotype as you’ve pointed out with regards to your experience. I’ve seen that too. They still have some deep rooted issue and most of it comes from their own perceptions and failings. I’m not making excuses, I don’t have time for bullies. It is what I have seen happen to my younger sister and to students I’ve taught.
        Just remember this, you are a better person than they are and they are miserable sods who are very unhappy with themselves, though they would never show or admit it.

          • cav12

            I didn’t take it that way and vent away! You are entitled to do so! I get angry at kids and adults who are bullies. I feel helpless when it happens even when steps are taken.

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