It was brought to my attention the other day that the way adults use the word "ugly" is very different than the way children use it. And, honestly, I think I like their way a lot more.
When my nieces and nephews get upset with each other, they are not afraid to let the other one know about their anger. In their playroom I will often here phrases like: I'm not going to share any of my snacks with you ever EVER again! You cannot play with us cause you're just a baby and there are NO babies ALLOWED. I never want to sit by you EVER again! Or the ultimate: You're not allowed to come to MY birthday party and I hope no one comes to YOURS!
You hope that no one shows up to the party? Ouch. That's rough.
So, what do I, or their mom or my mom or babysitter, do when these things are heard? We go in and use the word that stops it. The word that no one wants to be.
You do NOT say that to your brother/sister because that is UGLY.
On most days, this works. Of course there are days when lighting their entire toy collection on fire wouldn't get so much as a shrug out of them, but we aren't talking about those days. Those days are what make me very happy that I am the aunt and not the momma. But, 90% of the time, this word gets their attention.
You see, even children don't want to be considered "ugly". It is practically programmed in our DNA to fear the idea.
And I agree with that fear--when it comes to a child's definition of it.
To them, being ugly is being cruel or manipulative or not being allowed to share candy. If you ask a 3-year-old why they don't want to wear the pants you picked out, the answer is usually that they just don't want to or they really had their little heart set on a tutu that day. They don't say because they're ugly, because the pants aren't being cruel or manipulative or withholding candy.
Pants don't become cruel and manipulitive until later in life. And they don't start withholding candy until you graduate high school. Pants can be downright rude in the Adult World.
Now, grown-ups, we use the word all of the time.
Our hair is ugly. The color of our eyes is ugly. Our boss or co-worker is ugly. We have nothing to wear because all the clothes in our closets are ugly. Our complexions are ugly. Our car is ugly. Our bodies are ugly. The guy who just bought us a drink is ugly. Our laugh is ugly. (Are you getting sick of that word, yet? Good.)
Ugly, ugly, UGLY. We throw that shit around like rice at the end of a wedding or confetti at a parade. It's everywhere and no one wants to clean it up.
We even try to convice other people that we are ugly. Seriously. We do!
Last Friday was date night for me. I love date night. I love it, therefore I spend extra time getting ready for it. This happens to be something I believe in doing. Whether it is a person, a place, or your favorite plate of pasta--if you love it, you should take a little extra time getting ready for it. *MEN, if you are reading this, this would be a good note to keep in mind. **LADIES, you're welcome.
Back to getting ready:
I got all done up for this date. The hair, the makeup, the outfit, the heels (ugh, the heels)--all of it. I finished up and walked out to meet my boyfriend in the living room. As soon as he saw me, he said: Wow, honey. You look beautiful.
Cue the floating hearts, flying doves and romantic music, right?!
NOPE. Instead of twirling so he could get a better look, I proceeded to fold my arms, groan unhappily and give him the cheek his lips were not aiming for. I might as well have popped every cartoon heart in the room, took out all of the doves with my imaginary shotgun (which I always have on me) and gave the orchestra the death stare until they stopped.
What an asshole.
Why did I do that? Did I spent an hour and a half getting dressed (okay, maybe two. I like to take breaks!) in hopes that my man would tell me that he thought I looked OKAY, or worse, say nothing at all? What was my deal?
My deal was this: While I was curling my hair I was mentally noting that I needed to visit the salon soon. While I was applying my make-up I was cursing Mother Nature for delivering a blemish early. While I was tugging on my pants I was hating myself for skipping the gym that day. And before I shut off the bathroom light to leave, I took a look at myself and thought I can do better than this.
No wonder I had a bounty out on cupid's head. I didn't make room in my date night clutch for any extra love. That chubby love-drunk angel never stood a chance!
It literally hurt to the point of irritation to hear someone that I loved say something kind about my appearance.
Now that's UGLY.
Why is it so hard, especially for women, to take a compliment?
It seems like the minute I offer one of my friends or acquaintances any sort of praise, they have an entire arsenal full and ready of things to deflect it.
Wow, I love that top! Oh my God, this?? No. I've had it for YEARS. I just need to throw this old thing away already.
Wow! You are looking great! Oh, whatever. I look like a walrus and a cow had a baby. Do not bullshit me.
Sheesh. We are a tough crowd.
It seems like the moment someone has something nice to say, we can't wait to tell them not to say it.
Sometimes the things we respond with don't have ANYTHING to do with the compliment. Someone could tell us that they love our new hair color and we decide to reveal that we are seeing psychiatrist or announce that we have irritable bowel syndrome.
Seriously? Are we that terrified of compliments??
Unfortunately, for some of us, the answer is yes. And that is so NOT okay.
We need to take a lesson from our kids. We need to redefine the word UGLY. When we deny a compliment, that is ugly. When we berate our bodies, that is ugly. When we put ourselves down so much and so low that we hope no one will be able to reach us, THAT is ugly.
Soon, the kids in our lives will be going to school and talking to other kids about what ugly means to them. And, sadly, their definitions are going to slowly start to resemble our own. The only thing we can do to stop this is stop being ugly to ourselves.
Look around. People are watching. More importantly--little people are listening! Your kids, nieces, nephews, godchildren, students, neighbors--all of them. Every time you question your own beauty, they learn to do the same. Every time you choose not to believe someone when they say you are beautiful, they also lose trust in the next person who tells them this too. Even when it's YOU!
How can they believe you when you tell them they are perfect and loving and beautiful, when you don't know those things yourself? They can't.
The more you love yourself in a pure and deserving way, the sooner those around you will choose to do the same.
So, who is around? Do you want them to feel and believe these things about themselves? Have you been setting a bad example?
If so, then go ahead and put yourself in a timeout and think about your actions. And don't come out of your room until you can act like a big kid! Because big kids know that they are wonderful and God-given and beautiful and smart and deserving. They are all of these amazing things.
There are a few things they are not.
Big kids are not ungrateful. They say thank you when someone is kind to them. They do not put themselves down. They get up and try again when they fail and they hope for better while enjoying the now. And the one thing that big kids definitely are not is ugly.
So, be a big kid that little kids can look up to. Give a compliment. Take a compliment. Help redefine the word ugly one thank you at a time.