In the eye of the beholder…

unique

In conversation with my dad, he mentioned the song This Is Me from the 2017 movie The Greatest Showman. The song was nominated for an Academy Award – after listening to it, I can certainly understand why. The songwriters, Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, definitely know how to convey a powerful message through lyrics and music. If you haven’t already listened to the song, do. It just might change your life.

This Is Me

I’m not a stranger to the dark

Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say

No one will love you as you are

 

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

When the sharpest words want to cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ‘cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

 

Another round of bullets hits my skin

Well, fire away ‘cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

 

And I know that I deserve your love

There’s nothing I’m not worthy of

When the sharpest words want to cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

This is brave, this is bruised

This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

That song essentially outlines my struggles, as well as my hopes and dreams for myself and the world around me. Listening to it (I mean really listening to it) inspired me to write a little bit about perspective. While I agree that in many ways, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is most importantly in the eye of the beheld. A dandelion may see itself as beautiful, even though the majority of the world sees it as a weed to be eradicated. A tiny cat might think its grace and power rival that of lion, but the majority of the world only sees a small house pet. A person might see themselves as lovely on the inside and out, while the majority of the world sees someone awkward or plain. A group of people might see themselves as cherished and empowered by their collective identity, while the majority of the world sees a minority to be dismissed or even mistreated.

Who am I or you or anyone else to tell someone that they are not beautiful, unique, and worthy of love exactly how they are. Not “exactly how you are…once you get braces and fix those teeth.” Not “exactly how you are…once you lose a few pounds.” Not “exactly how you are…once you get rid of all that acne.” Not “exactly how you are…once you learn to speak English.” Not “exactly how you are…once you fix your depression.” Just “exactly how you are…right now.”

Sure, some of those things might be goals that an individual clings to – straightening teeth, losing weight, or conquering mental illness are all lofty goals, but they should never become a barrier to love and acceptance. And the inability to make any of those so-called improvements should certainly not become a form of identity. Who you are – who you should be proud to introduce to others – is not determined by the bathroom scale, your grade point average, or the number of prescriptions in your medicine cabinet. You are your own beautiful self. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

I used to work with a therapist who was excellent at gently helping others think outside the box. One day he told me, “Every day I sit in a different place in my office. Some days I sit at my desk, some days I sit on the couch, and some days I sit in the other chair. I like to constantly see my office from different perspectives.” That will probably stick with me until I’m old and nothing sticks to me except my dentures. Keeping life in perspective, as with so many other things in life, cannot be passive. Comfort can be dangerous. As soon as we become comfortable in our beliefs and the way we see the world, we are more likely to become blind to the differences that make others unique and beautiful. One of my all-time favorite movies is Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989). At one point, Robin Williams’ character, an instructor at a prestigious school for boys, begins teaching class while standing on his desk. After asking students to guess why he does this, he finally explains, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. See, the world looks very different from up here. Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it seems silly or wrong, you must try.”

I firmly believe that having a flexible world view, as well as a flexible view of self, is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. Flexibility is what drives empathy. Empathy, in my humble opinion, is ultimately what drives the world. Empathy has a rather lengthy and descriptive definition, which the creative writer in me loves!

“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner” (Empathy, n.d.).

How could this require anything but flexibility? I’m not saying you should condone murder or anything that involves breaking the law or doing harm to yourself or others. Be reasonable. What I’m saying is that you have to have enough perspective…enough flexibility…enough empathy…to accept others as well as yourself. It is my dream to be able to confidently put my whole self out there, as the song This Is Me portrays. Having perspective, or empathy, requires that we show ourselves as much forgiveness and honor as we show others, and vice-versa.

How can I say that I deserve to be loved and accepted for who I am, while silently judging someone else for how they look, what country they were born in, or how many failed marriages they have in their past? We all make mistakes. If we are to accept ourselves in spite of those mistakes, we must learn to look at our own life and our own issues from alternate perspectives. Only then will we begin to discover possible resolutions or even just the ability to grant ourselves the same grace we would grant anyone else experiencing something similar. If we are to accept others in spite of so many different variables, we must practice flexibility and empathy so that we might understand what makes them who they are and what motivates their words and actions.

Positive self-talk and positive talk to and about others can be a difficult first step towards a flexible perspective. I recently had an epiphany about the crafting I love so much. I am a huge fan of cross-stitching, knitting, and crocheting. What is the first thing that came to mind when you read that? That those are all things your 200 year old grandma does, right? For that very reason, I have always kept those hobbies to myself. I didn’t want people to judge me for doing, no loving, hobbies that are stereotypical of old women. I have always ignored the fact that people are usually ecstatic to receive a homemade gift like a blanket, a wall hanging, or even dish cloths. This aside, I find crafting to be therapeutic. SO WHAT THE HECK AM I ASHAMED OF?! People love it…I love it… it’s all in how I choose to look at it. Perspective, people! With a little flexibility, I now don’t get embarrassed to say that I crocheted for two hour last night instead of going out and partying with all the other “kids” my age. That being said, I’m inching towards middle age, so soon I will actually be the old lady sitting in a rocking chair with her knitting needles.

The sooner we realize that if we want to believe that we should be loved for every single piece of what makes us who we are, we damn well better believe that other people deserve that same exact thing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yes? Choose to see your own beauty. Choose to see the beauty in others. Also, choose to crochet. Life is short.

 

References

 

Empathy. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy

Paul, Justin, & Pasek, Benj. (2017). This is Me. The Greatest Showman. Lyrics retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/greatestshowmancast/thisisme.html

Weir, Peter (Director). (1989). Dead Poets Society. United States: Touchstone Pictures.

Cover photo: http://www.unsplash.com

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