The Price [Of Needing To Be] Right


There are few phrases in the English language that resonate quite as sweetly in the human ear as “You’re Right!”  Their mere utterance swells the chest as it reflexively fills with pride.  They are reaffirming, if not gratifying.  On occasion, particularly when preceded by “I hate to admit it but . . .,” they can even be empowering.  In fact, repeat them often enough to the same person, whether it be out of a sense of duty, respect, deference, or fear and before long they will instill a sense of superiority.  It’s almost inevitable.  Don’t get me wrong:  All of us deserve the nearly intoxicating pleasure of being told we’re “right” from time to time and, when warranted, we shouldn’t hesitate to confer that same benefit on others.  The problem arises when our desire to be “right” at least once in a while becomes our need to be right all the time – about everything!

Indeed, therapy rooms, family living rooms, office conference rooms, and marital bedrooms are filled with people intent on proving they’re right – no matter what the cost.  And, believe me, they have the “evidence’ they need to do just that.  They’ve been collecting it their entire lives.  They’ve kept careful track/score of all the times they were “right” and, as importantly, the times in their not-so-humble opinion that others (spouses, friends, lovers, colleagues, children, etc.) were “wrong” and they’re more than happy (and able) to pull that scorecard out on a moment’s notice should anyone (even someone they profess to love) dare to challenge the correctness of their point of view.  I know intimately of what I speak, because, truth be told, I spent a number of years and expended a considerable amount of valuable emotional energy needing to be right.

Ultimately, however, I came to realize that there’s a price that comes with needing to be right – a significant price.  Among other things, always needing to be right makes it virtually impossible to truly listen to another’s point of view, let alone actually entertain the possibility that they may be right.  It also makes the Needer quick to judge, at times even confrontational or dismissive – not to mention predisposed to seeing even complex, multifaceted problems and issues in stark, black and white terms.  Over time, the combination of these highly undesirable attributes has a “chilling effect” on others in the Needer’s life (e.g., spouses, children, co-workers, friends, etc.), who would just as soon swallow their voice than engage in the debate that too often accompanies its expression or, worse yet, get the sense that they are being ignored – again!

Finally, but no less importantly, needing to be right presupposes that there is a right and wrong in every situation, which simply is not the case, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.  In fact, one of the most difficult, but critical lessons I’ve had to learn over the years is that, as parents, spouses, bosses, friends, etc., we can be all kinds of right with respect to our intentions, words (and even our actions) only to later discover that those words and actions were misperceived, misdirected and/or misunderstood in a way that rendered them all wrong to those on the receiving end.  And yet, the more we need to be right, the less likely it is that we will ever be able to embrace that sobering reality (i.e., that we may have hurt someone with the best of intentions), let alone find the humility required to seek forgiveness so that meaningful healing can begin in earnest.

I Feel For The Bachelorette

raining hearts

You would think after nearly a year of laying “me” bare for all the world to see, first in the writing and publication of my book and then through the medium of this blog, that pulling back the curtain just a little bit more wouldn’t be all that difficult. But, if I’ve learned anything in this process (and I’ve learned plenty!) it’s that vulnerability just doesn’t work that way. To the contrary, every time we decide to reveal another piece of ourselves, particularly one that is quite personal, we take a risk – a risk that we will be embarrassed, made fun of, perhaps even ridiculed; a risk that we will be misunderstood or convey our thoughts and our heart in a way that, quite unintentionally, will cause another pain; a risk that we will alienate someone or be rejected; a risk that others will misconstrue our vulnerability as weakness and seek to take advantage of us; and even, on occasion, a risk that we will be abandoned. However, I’ve also learned (and been shown by others who I have come to admire greatly, Brené Brown, Kirsten Haglund and Leighton Jordan being a few who immediately come to mind) that there is nothing quite as liberating as being vulnerable and nothing that has more power to change a life and, on occasion, save one. I was reminded of that again a few weeks back when I saw the following note on Leighton’s FB page from a young girl named Ivey: “Dear Leighton, I know you’ve impacted many lives as Ms. Georgia, but you saved mine – and I will always be grateful for that.”

And so, after struggling to find just the right words for weeks, I decided to reach for my own curtain – one more time.  Little did I know this season’s Bachelorette, Desiree Hartsock, would beat me to the punch.  I’m certainly not here to defend “The Bachelorette” as a show. Heck, I don’t even watch it. I just happened to be flipping channels the other night, while taking a moment’s rest after my evening walk, and, like a bystander drawn to a train wreck, paused when I saw the obvious “drama” unfolding between Des and one of her suitors.  Moments later, I heard her utter these words through a cascade of tears: “I’ve never felt completely loved by anyone.” “I can’t believe she just said that on national T.V.,” I thought to myself, “she’ll be crucified by the viewers.” They’ll say “her tears aren’t real,” that “it’s the corniest thing they’ve ever heard,” that “she’s a whiny you know what,” that “she’s disrespecting the guys on the show who have been pouring their hearts out to her for weeks – not to mention everyone who came before them (e.g., family, friends, former lovers, etc.), all of whom almost certainly showered her with their love and affection through the years.”  And sure enough, the next day, the Internet was abuzz with all of that hurt-speak – and more.  But, I can tell you this:  The sentiment Des so courageously shared and the tears she shed in sharing it were real.  I can also tell you that she meant no disrespect to those in her life who have loved her.  Listen carefully to her words.  She didn’t say “no one has ever loved me fully” – only that she has “never felt completely loved by anyone.” There’s a huge and important difference between the two.

How can I be so sure?  Because her truth is mine as well. I too have shed those tears, though much more privately. In my case, I’m not sure whether my inability to feel fully loved (or, perhaps more precisely, to fully accept love when it was offered) is a by-product of my having grown up with an alcoholic mother or my sensing from a mostly non-emotive, perfectionistic dad that affection was tied to/dependent upon my being perfect – though plainly that was never the message he intended to convey.  Maybe it was my own insecurities when it came to love and my “love-ability” – insecurities that were only reinforced by my too often being the “third wheel” in the love relationships I desired most. Maybe it was my fear, having been rejected a time (or two!) along the way, that if I again allowed someone to have full access to my heart, eventually they would abandon me, leaving pain in their wake that simply would be too great for me to bear.  More likely, it was some combination of all of the above – and more.  On the one hand, I’m grateful for whatever it was that brought me to this place, because it’s given me a keen sense of what a heart-in-need “looks like” and made me an above-average giver, which I believe is our true and highest calling as human beings.  It’s the receiving part I’ve always found to be so difficult and continue to struggle with – not only where love is concerned, but well-intended and, dare I say it, on occasion, probably well-deserved praise.  And for that piece, I’m not so grateful.

Suffice it to say, it’s a little late in the game for me to come to this realization, but I share this part of who I am for two reasons.  First, because I know, from having had the privilege to listen to lots of hearts over the past several years, that Des and I are not alone in our struggles to receive love. I also know it’s not too late for others.  And so my primary hope (indeed my prayer) for younger like-minded hearts is that they will be inspired by my candor to take, rather than avoid the risk of experiencing what it’s like to be fully loved and fully vulnerable.  At the same time, it occurs to me that my sharing might help those who are committed to giving love to “people like us” understand that, as hard as it may be to believe, for some, it’s not as easy as you think to receive it!

A Little Girl, A BIG Red Balloon And A Radiant Reminder Of What Being “Beautiful” Is All About

girl with red balloon

beau·ti·ful [byoo-tuh-fuh l] (adjective) – possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind.

By now you’ve likely seen the link to the so-called “Dove Experiment” that made its rounds on social media several weeks ago.  Apparently inspired by the mind-numbing statistic that accompanies the post (i.e., that “only 4% of women around the world consider themselves to be beautiful”), the ingenious folks at Dove retained the services of a retired forensic artist to prove a point, namely that women are far more critical of their own appearance, specifically their facial features, than even other women are of them!   And, as evidenced by the sketches that resulted when the two groups were asked to describe the same face – and the tears that flowed from those faces when the women were confronted with their “self-harshness” – Dove did just that!  The video (found at the end of this post) is quite moving and its implications are profound and important.  Respectfully, however, it leaves several critical questions unanswered: Where do these negative self-perceptions come from?  Against what standards are these women self-evaluating?  How do we begin to take steps to ensure that our daughters and other loved ones are not part of a similar “experiment” and shedding those same tears 5 or 10 years from now?

Because here’s the troubling reality:  As disturbing as the 4% figure in the Dove piece is – and make no mistake, it’s deeply disturbing – I believe it also is overstated!  The fact is:  In my 55 years occupying this planet, I don’t think I’ve ever met a single woman who, if asked, would say that she considered herself to be beautiful – and, over the years, I’ve met (and I continue to meet) many beautiful women.  Conversely, if you were to ask women (and, again, I’m talking about 99% (if not 100%) – not just 96% – of all women) if there is a physical feature or characteristic about themselves that they wish they could change, all of them would readily find at least one thing, if not several.  Ask them why they would change those things, however, and the response is not likely to be as quick.  I know, because I did just that shortly after “Real Beauty Sketches” went viral with a young attorney friend, who, at the time, had just celebrated her 33rd birthday.  She not only is a great person, she is beautiful – in every sense of the word.  And yet, she will tell you she’s one of my 100% (i.e., there are things about her that, given the chance, she would change and she certainly doesn’t “consider herself beautiful”).  Ironically, she was the one who insisted that I see the Dove spot.  We chatted about it at some length in anticipation of this post and I presented her with the following:

“If I were to go out on the street right now and select 50 men at random – of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds and ethnicities – and ask for a showing of hands as to how many of them think you’re beautiful, I am 100% CERTAIN that every hand would go up, without a moment’s hesitation.  I’m equally CERTAIN that if I did the same thing in 50 different states and 100 different cities, I would get the same response – with a possible exception or two (allowing for the fact that since the cross-section is completely random, we might stumble upon one or two blind people!).”  At this point she was blushing a bit, while simultaneously trying to allow herself to ponder the prospect that I might be speaking the truth.  “Here’s what I’d like to know,” I asked: “If I were to do that and the results turned out the way I expect, would it move the needle?  Would you be any more likely to consider yourself beautiful?”  She paused for a moment and then, ever the honest one, conceded it (and she) wouldn’t!  “What then is the standard?” I asked. “Is it other women, because I’m fairly confident they would reach the same conclusion as the men.”  “I don’t think so,” she said.  “I guess I just compare myself to other women and wish I had some of what they have.”

How do we start to move away from all of this – men and women?  My cut:  We’re looking in the “wrong mirrors” to assess our beauty and, in turn, to define our self-worth.  It’s probably easier for me to say and think that, given the fact that I don’t have a chance in the mirror.  After all, I have a really big head. I’m not talking about big in an egocentric, swollen kind of way. I’m talking about geometrically disproportionate-to-the-rest-of-my-body big. I’m talking about when-I-was-a-kid-I-made-a-party-hat-look-like-the-size-of-a-snow-cone-cup-on-a-basketball big. I’m talking about don’t-bother-trying-to-buy-me-a-hat-because-it-will-never-fit big. I also happen to be one of the only people on the planet to have been born with an “upside-down” smile.  And then there’s the “small” issues relating to my ears (one of which is slightly lower than the other), my legs (one of which is shorter than the other), my eyebrows (one of which is higher than the other) and my shoulders (which, truth be told, are more than a little on the “relaxed” side, as opposed to being squared as I’ve repeatedly been told “they should be”).  Bottom line:  If studied too closely, I’m a veritable “mess” in the mirror, which probably accounts for the fact that come next year I will be left off of People Magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People” list for what will be the 55th consecutive time!

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll be the last person on Earth to trivialize body image issues or the obvious power they have to influence the lives and behaviors of others, especially women.  I am, however, convinced that the path to feeling good (okay, I’ll settle for better!) about ourselves and, ultimately, to true happiness depends on our willingness and ability to care less about the reflection we see in the bathroom mirror each morning and more about the reflections we create in the sometimes radiant, often tear-filled eyes of those whose lives we touch with gifts that will never be captured by a mirror—gifts of friendship, kindness, trust, compassion, empathy, encouragement, understanding — even the simple gift of our mere presence and our willingness to listen.  How can I be so certain? I’m certain because I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to see those reflections dozens of times in my own life—and, not surprisingly, none of them had anything to do with the size of my head, the shape of my smile, the levelness of my ears or the length of my legs.  In fact, I saw it again this past Saturday, when I politely arranged for an adorable little girl to get a BIG red balloon at Chick-fil-A!  That simple gesture, made anonymously to a complete stranger, led to a smile that lit up the entire restaurant – a smile that reminded me: “You know what, Don, you’re beautiful!”  There, I said it . . .

“Shame Off You!”

Shame Off You

In his book, “Shame Off You – Washing Away The Mud That Hides Our True Selves,” Senior Pastor and Author, Alan Wright takes his readers on a thought-provoking and potentially life-changing journey aimed at first uncovering and, ultimately, breaking free of one of the most powerful and debilitating emotions of the human condition – the “inner tyrant” we call shame.  Along the way, he recounts a Valentine’s Day sermon he delivered to the women of his congregation, in which, after first spending a night reflecting on the two most influential women in his own life, his wife and his mother, he took on the mantle of too-prideful men everywhere and offered the following “confession” and plea for forgiveness.  It is a profound message that, with Alan’s permission, I am privileged to share:

“I have glimpsed the pain of the dishonored and shamed women in our world and I believe God has sent me to you today to say that I’m sorry for not honoring you.

I’m sorry for the way men have abandoned you.  To every little girl, whose daddy was too busy at work to notice her playschool art, for every dance recital we missed because of needing to work late at the office – again, for every preacher’s daughter whose father was out saving the world but didn’t notice he was losing his own little girl . . . I am truly sorry.

When the moment of the battle rises, and the dragon rears its ugly head, we were meant to fight – to do something, even if it’s the wrong thing.  But we have been too silent, too passive, and we have left you to fight your own battle.

We’ve left our adolescent girls to find out about their sexuality in the backseat of a boyfriend’s car, rather than in the open conversation and sanctity of our home.  I’m sorry for our silence – that we haven’t spoken to you more.  And I’m sorry that we have been so unable to show our daughter’s affection.  You wanted to roll in the grass, to ride on our shoulders, to feel the whiskers on our cheeks, and to sit in our laps for long stretches of time.  But we’ve been uncomfortable with touch, because we weren’t taught it by our fathers.

I want to say I’m sorry for every little girl and every wife whose daddy or husband abandoned her for a bottle of alcohol.  When you needed us, we just weren’t there.

I want to say that I’m sorry for every little girl or wife whose daddy or husband left home and didn’t come back.  You were the hidden treasure and we didn’t know it.  We thought we could find it at the end of the rainbow, over some distant horizon, but the rainbow had no end, and there was no other treasure, and for too many of us, it’s now too late.

I’m sorry for the ways we have used you for our advantage.  No, I’m not the child molester, nor the rapist, nor the man sitting at the bar watching you dance around a pole, nor the John who was your last customer.  I have not, by the grace of God been that man.  But what man in our midst has not sinned by looking upon a woman as an object rather than a person, putting expectations upon your waistline that we do not put upon our own?  We have bought the cars and the calendars that the bikini models modeled.  I feel the whole weight of the unthinkable ways that we have used women to momentarily soothe our own deep inward shame.

May I tell you – if we could be honest with ourselves, with God and with you – how most men really feel?

We marvel at who you are.  You have a discernment that we don’t have.  You notice tiny, subtle details when we see nothing at all.  We marvel at the way you make relationships, and we secretly long to be able to find and make friends the way you do.  We’re amazed at the way you pray, the way you sing, the way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you cry.  We’re amazed at how deeply you feel things and how easily you express your feelings.  We are amazed at how multidimensional you are – interweaving softness and strength; how you have endured so much, persevered through so much, and celebrated so much.

Every woman is a rose.  Lovely, mysterious, fragrant, and meant to be handled with care.  Its piercing thorns greet only those who recklessly grab the stem without taking the time to appreciate its total beauty.  The most beautiful of flowers, the sweetest of fragrances, and the costliest in the florist’s shop.  You are beautiful from the moment of the first bud, but your beauty unfolds a petal at a time as you blossom and grow.  Today, we honor you.  We do not seek to own you, use you or control you – but to admire you . . . and to thank you!”

It’s a powerful starting point, but there is much work left to be done.  Thank you, Alan – for sharing your heart on behalf of all of us.

Finding A Pace That Brings A Smile To Your Face

Soccer Image

Dear Ashley,

I always enjoy going up to our local park on Saturday mornings, not only for the exercise, but for the insights I seem to gain every time I’m there. A recent visit was no exception. As I came around the curve that leads from the parking lot to the path along 152nd Street, I encountered a frenzy of activity on the makeshift soccer fields next to the tennis courts that Saturday mornings always bring. Mothers were busy unloading and setting up their “too much stuff” (e.g., strollers, playpens, duffel bags, coolers, etc.) from the mini-vans/SUVs du jour, while their husbands and smartly dressed 5- and 6-year-old sons and daughters warmed up for the big game.

On the second field down, the coaches had their players running laps around the field to limber up the old muscles. My immediate thought, of course, was that those roles should have been reversed (that the kids should have had their dads running laps—a visual that amused me for a moment). One of the girls, a beautiful and obviously energetic, pigtail-wagging blonde named Brittany, was jogging along at her own pace, admittedly falling a bit behind her already way-too-intense male teammates.

Seeing this, her dad screamed out across the field: “Brittany, pick it up, everybody’s beating you!” She immediately responded, shifted into another gear and proceeded to outrun everyone on the field. But there was a price to be paid for her success that her dad completely missed. You see, before her father screamed at her, Brittany didn’t even realize, let alone care, that everybody was beating her. She didn’t even know it was a race! And she was right—it wasn’t.

Brittany was just doing her thing at precisely the pace she wanted to do it. How do I know that? I know because I saw the radiant and carefree smile on her face, the one that said “I’m glad to be alive, I love to run, I love to be at the park” and maybe even “I can’t wait for this silly game to start so that I can show these boys a thing or two about playing soccer.” I know that because I saw how dramatically that facial expression changed when her dad unknowingly expressed his disappointment in her performance.

I paused for a moment and thought of the number of times that, in spite of my best efforts, you and your brother received similar spoken and unspoken messages from me along the way—looks of incredulity, frustration or disappointment from dad, when you acted in a way that I never would have expected you to act or failed to perform at a level that I had come to expect of you, and sarcastic comments when you made mistakes and attempted to apologize that almost certainly were taken literally at times (“Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it!”). I’m also sure that there were times when I was far less subtle in my spoken and written criticisms and admonitions.

But the truth is, I’m the one who’s sorry, Ashley (and Greg) – sorry for all the times I failed to reflect the lesson that Brittany and her dad so dramatically and eloquently reminded me of on that soccer field today: Life is not about who is or isn’t beating you to the non-existent finish line. It’s about finding a pace that brings a smile to your face and learning to ignore the voices that seek to knock you off your stride.

With All My Love,


An Excerpt From “Dear Ashley . . .” – A Father’s Reflections And Letters To His Daughter On Life, Love and Hope (Brittany: Living In An “If You Ain’t First, You’re Last” World)

“Without Saying A Word . . .”

dad holding baby

I sometimes walk at a park near our house.  It’s a fairly chaotic place. There are toddlers screaming at their parents in the playground area, parents screaming at their children on the soccer and little league fields, coaches screaming at anyone who will listen to them, teenagers (and young adults) screaming (and cursing) at one another on the pick-up basketball courts and cars racing in and out of the parking lot like their owners are on their way to a house fire.  In short, it’s a microcosm of the world we live in – the one in which we’re expected to maintain our sanity at all times!  Maybe that’s why what I saw in the midst of that insanity several months ago struck me the way that it did, even though it was a sight I’m sure I’d seen a thousand times before.

It was a young mother, standing on the fringes of the chaos, tenderly holding her nearly newborn infant close against her chest.  That was it!  “It” was the purest, most innocent, most powerful and most beautiful expression of unconditional love and acceptance I may have ever seen and, interestingly, “it” didn’t require a single word. In fact, one of the two participants was wholly incapable of communicating with words. “It” also didn’t require any action – save for the delicate way mom was cradling her child and her willingness to allow her chest to serve as a pillow for a moment’s rest.  And yet, there is no doubt in my mind that as their hearts beat together, mom and infant child were fully engaged in unconditionally loving and accepting love from one another.

“It’s” the way all true love begins, the way love is intended to be. “It” was starkly uncomplicated, uncluttered, non-judgmental – free of drama (and needless baggage).  And yet, it occurred to me, as I passed by mom and infant, that very few of us are wise enough to understand that it’s meant to be that simple, particularly when we’re young and relatively new to the whole idea of love.  Instead, often without realizing what we’re doing or intending any harm, we start to pile a bunch of “life stuff” on top of it. We over think it, unnecessarily complicate it, take it for granted or, worse yet, try to change it to make it look and feel different (usually the way we think it should look and feel to suit our own selfish needs and desires) – and, more often than not, in the process, we distort or lose it.

Unfortunately, that’s true of lovers and parents, which is why when I passed by a second time, I thought about stopping to tell that “mom” how overwhelmed I was by the sight of her and her child, but I was scared and didn’t want to intrude on the moment.  If I could’ve found the courage, however, I would have urged her to dedicate her life to preserving and trying to replicate that moment, not only with her child, but with everyone she holds dear.  As I continued on my way, I remembered once holding my own children like that, wondering how it was possible to love someone you barely even knew so completely, feeling an almost suffocating sense of responsibility to protect them from harm and guide them, and already beginning to envision what their life and our life together would “look like.”

But, in the end, unbeknownst to me at the time, what I was most responsible for was keeping the picture of what love looked like when it was new fresh in my mind at all times and finding creative ways to communicate to my son and daughter that same sense of unconditional love and support that I shared with them in our own “parking lot moments” innumerable times, when they couldn’t say a word – or understand a word I said.  The truth is: At one time or another, all of us have experienced the love that I saw in the parking lot that night.  Our challenge, not only as moms and dads, but as human beings who profess to care for one another is to find our way back to it, to restore it if necessary, and then to get out of our own way and allow it to take up permanent residence in our soul.

 *With special thanks to Ron James of Ron James Photography (Boulder, CO) for granting me permission to share his remarkable photograph.

“When You Forget How Beautiful You Are”

papillon sur l'eau

In the early stages of our daughter’s illness, while I was desperately scouring the medical landscape in search of guidance and insight into the complex and multifaceted world of eating disorders, I was fortunate to be referred to a compassionate and knowledgeable physician on the West Coast, who had dedicated much of his professional life to the diagnosis, treatment and study of these diseases. After patiently and attentively listening to Ashley’s and our family’s story, he asked me one simple question: “Don, who is the person Ashley trusts more than anyone in the world?” “I’m not sure,” I responded, “I’ve never really thought about it. Why do you ask?” “Because,” he replied, “my experience has taught me that, when Ashley is ready, that’s the person she will allow to take her hand and help lead her out of her eating disorder.”

It was much too early in the process for me to grasp the full import of his words, but, over time, I began to appreciate the critical role that trust plays at both ends of the eating disorder spectrum.  When breached, trust can serve as a “trigger” for the disease to manifest itself.  More importantly, however, when restored or re-discovered, trust can be a lantern that helps illuminate the path leading out of the disease’s dark and deadly maze.  In fact, those who have read my book know that trust is a recurrent theme.  Several months ago, I was reminded of the criticality of trust in a humbling e-mail I received from Carolyn Costin (, a woman whose own courage, writings and selfless dedication to others I have long admired (

I was fortunate to first meet Carolyn briefly at the NEDA Conference last October and took the opportunity to give her a copy of my book.  Shortly thereafter, she wrote to share her thoughts, which were quite reaffirming.  In commenting on one of the chapters in particular (Chapter 9: Junnuh), Carolyn expressed her long-standing conviction that “everyone needs someone they can trust to show them to themselves.”  It’s a phrase I’ve been replaying in my mind ever since, in part, because it beautifully and concisely captures a profoundly important truth that I suspect is too often overlooked in treating those who suffer from eating disorders and, in part, because I believe it is equally true in all of our lives, irrespective of whether we have suffered or had a loved one suffer from an eating disorder.  In fact, I was reminded of its importance again just yesterday, when a friend texted: “I’m having trouble seeing the worth in me today.”

The fact is that, while those suffering from eating disorders have a particularly difficult time “interpreting” the images of self that they see reflected back in many “mirrors” of their lives – most of us, left to our own devices, also are very poor “perceivers” of ourselves, of the gifts that make us unique, of our “love-ability” and of our value as human beings.  Ideally, that would not be the case – and for a very select (and fortunate) few, it’s not.  They are able to perceive the truth about themselves clearly and accurately – and they like what they see!  For the rest of us, however, the images are not as clear – indeed, some are hidden from our view entirely, while others are grossly distorted.  Often, the insensitivity or callousness of others, even those who profess to care about us, reinforces those distortions or further obscures the “truth” about us from view.

But, I believe, eventually, if we’re patient, that “someone” Carolyn speaks of will come along – a special someone who we can trust implicitly.  They will “show us to ourselves,” perhaps for the first time, and through their loving eyes, rather than own, we too will finally (rightfully!) like what we see!  Who knows, that “special someone” may already be somewhere in our life.  It’s certainly worth a second look.

“Mirror, Mirror On The Wall . . . Why Is The ‘Me’ I See In You Not Who I Am At All?”

I Am Notes

WordPress has a number of interesting features for bloggers who use its platform.  One of them is the ability to track how many people visit your blog every day and what posts they look at.  Recently, I noticed that an entry I re-posted on Facebook the other day, “A Little Girl, A BIG Red Balloon And A Radiant Reminder of What Being ‘Beautiful’ Is Really All About” (, continues to attract lots of attention even though I first posted it more than 3 months ago, which is what prompted me to re-read it myself late Wednesday afternoon.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when the tears started to silently stream down my face as I watched the Dove “Beauty Sketches” upon which the post is based for what likely was the 100th time, because it happens every time!

This time around, however, it prompted a rather interesting thought: What would life “look” like, particularly a woman’s life, if we were never afforded the chance to see our reflection? Stated another way:  What if we never knew what we really look like?  What if, for example, we weren’t able to see whether our eyebrows were too thin or too thick or too close together or too far apart?  What if we were left to wonder whether our teeth were too big or too small, crooked or too close together, discolored or as white as a freshly bleached dress shirt?  What if women didn’t even know they had the facial blemishes, freckles, birth marks, lines, crows’ feet, etc. that they spend so much time (and money) trying to cover up?  What if we were oblivious to our facial skin tone, complexion, eye shading or shadowing and/or the state of our HAIR?  It sounds a bit preposterous, I know, but think about it for a minute (or two).

I did (on yesterday’s walk) and when I did I remembered an intriguing assignment my wife and I were given to do several years ago by an insightful and compassionate counselor.  We were sent home and directed to come up with independent lists of 10 character traits each of us found most attractive about our daughter – with the understanding that we would be asked to share them with her the following day. The only caveat was that we could only use one word descriptions. I can still recall doing that assignment and not pausing over it for even an instant.  Truth is: There were (and are) many such traits to choose from, but, ultimately, the following made my Top 10 – several of which independently found their way onto my wife’s list as well:

1.       Caring

2.       Compassionate

3.       Creative

4.       Friendly

5.       Funny

6.       Loyal

7.       Passionate

8.       Trustworthy

9.       Other-centered

10.    Intelligent

Interestingly, while all of those characteristics paint a very vivid picture of my daughter none will ever be visible in a mirror!  And the same is true for each of us, which makes me wonder: Why do so many of us spend so much of our time searching for who we are there?  Why do we allow a mirror to dictate our image of self?

The simple answers?  We shouldn’t!  So, here’s the challenge: Over the next 24 hours, I want you to come up with your own Top 10.  The list cannot mention (or have anything to do with) any aspect of your physical appearance.  In fact, for purposes of this exercise, I want you to pretend you don’t know what you look like!  If you struggle with it, ask a trusted friend to put together the list for you (i.e., “to show you to yourself”).  Once the list is complete, make up 10 separate little “placards” with one word on each and make them big enough so that when you cut them out and tape them onto it, they will cover every square inch of the mirror that “greets” you in the morning.  Then, do just that and once the mirror is fully covered leave the notes there for a week.

I’m fairly confident seeing the REAL YOU you in the mirror for seven days in a row, rather than the face you’re accustomed to seeing stare back at you (however “beautiful” it may be in its “natural” or “made up” state) will have a profoundly positive impact on your life – at least I hope it will.  What have you got to lose?