Every now and then a “knowing heart” appears on the literary and social media landscape with a powerful message and a special gift for sharing it – honestly, transparently, eloquently and with a conviction that can only come from personal experience. Rachel Macy Stafford has such a heart. Fortunately, for all of us, she regularly and selflessly pours it out, via her blog http://www.handsfreemama.com, which gave us the post heard ‘round the world, “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’” (http://tinyurl.com/n7taq45), her FB page http://tinyurl.com/qzv9jy4 and, most recently, her book, “Hands Free Mama – A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters,” which I believe is a must-read for all young parents and parents-to-be who are faced with the unique challenges associated with raising children in an increasingly technologically distracting world. Rachel, who I’m privileged to call a friend, and her publisher, Zondervan ( www.zondervan.com) have graciously agreed to allow me to share an excerpt from her book in my own blog today. In recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I would urge everyone to spread her message to the corners of the Earth. It’s that important.
You Are Beautiful
The other day I stopped at the drugstore for a few items. It was an extremely hot day, and I had just finished working out. I would have preferred to shower before the quick shopping trip, but sunscreen, Band-Aids, and an anniversary card for my parents couldn’t wait.
I was comparing the outrageous price of spray sunscreen versus lotion sunscreen when a male voice startled me out of my SPF price-comparing reverie, “I just gotta say, you are beautiful,” the man stated as casually as he would tell me my shoe was untied or that Banana Boat lasts longer than Coopertone. But he didn’t say those things. He said, “You are beautiful.” And then the young man, who appeared to be half my almost-forty years, added, “Go Tarheels.”
I looked down at my fossilized college T-shirt just to be sure he was talking to me. The UNC emblem was barely visible, so I was still not convinced I was the intended recipient of his unexpected compliment. I looked over my shoulder to make sure a Scarlett Johansson look-alike wasn’t behind me, coyly deciding which tanning oil would produce the best results. With no other human being in sight, I accepted the fact that he was indeed talking to me, but he must have very bad eyesight.
In my hand, I gripped a tube of sunscreen I would have paid fifty bucks for just to vaporize myself out of the store. As embarrassment climbed my neck in a prominent red hue, I sprinted to the checkout counter. Who needs Band-Aids and store-bought cards anyway? I decided masking tape would work perfectly as Band-Aids and Hallmark cards are completely overrated anyway. I was certain my parents would love a homemade anniversary card this year.
I am not even sure I waited for my change from the cashier. I scurried to my vehicle, slamming the door with vigor. Once I was in the safety of my car, I had a moment to reflect. I tilted the rear view mirror down until I could see my reflection, but then as quickly tilted it back up. I surely did not see anything qualifying as beautiful there.
In that moment of bewilderment and shock, the words of a dear friend came back to me. She had recently posted an array of vacation pictures on Facebook. A particular photo of her in the album captivated me. It was a close-up of her face. She wore not a stitch of make-up and was laughing. In the comment section below the picture, I had written one word: Beautiful. I had never seen this gorgeous woman ever look so beautiful. Later, my friend sent me a personal message, which she has given me permission to share:
‘Yesterday on Facebook you made a comment I would have never made about myself. In fact, it took me by surprise. You typed ‘Beautiful’ about the picture of me laughing. I almost replied, ‘I don’t think so. I hate the way my nose crinkles up and how my chin looks in this picture.’ But then I realized your comment is your perception of the picture, not mine. I thought maybe I should consider looking at the photo again. Then I smiled and said a peaceful and sincere ‘thank-you’ to you in my head.’
My friend went on to describe her personal battle (and recent small successes) against her cruel inner voice and poor self-image issues. Using her courage as inspiration, I tilted the rear view mirror down one more time. I thought maybe I should reconsider beautiful too.
I liked how my cheeks were flushed a peachy rose color from the intensity of my just-completed three-mile run. And how my hair curled into soft waves from the sweltering heat and humidity. I even saw the faintest sparkle in my eyes from the exercise endorphins still radiating through my body.
That certainly wasn’t a word I used to describe myself every day. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I called myself beautiful.
It was then that I saw the reflection of two hopeful blue eyes staring back at me. I thought, “Isn’t 39 years long enough?”
Isn’t thirty-nine years of harsh criticism long enough?
Isn’t it time you start seeing beautiful in yourself?
And with that I said a prayer.
At the time it was for me, but now I believe it is also for you. These healing words are for everyone who yearns to break free from the internal distractions (feelings of shame, guilt, ridicule, insecurity, failure, doubt and regret) that prevent them from grasping what really matters and truly living.
I wish . . .
I wish you victory against the cruel inner voice,
To see self-acceptance truly is a choice.
I wish you victory against the worries that fill your mind,
To seek contentment that you shall surely find.
I wish you victory against a tunnel vision that blinds your view,
From the exquisite beauty that radiates from you.
I wish you victory against the dark thoughts that invade your sleep,
To instead be filled with peace that you shall forever keep.
And through each victory that comes with each passing day,
A melody to fill your heart, for you my friend, I pray.
Loving messages becoming more and more clear,
Drowning out the haunting voice of inner doubt and fear.
And finally you will hear it, and life will truly begin,
The victory song of self-acceptance that only comes from within.
I am not exactly sure what my victory song of self-acceptance will sound like, but I believe it will contain words like capable, brave, and strong. And it will have phrases like “you are enough” and “you are worth.”
I’m quite hopeful I will be hearing a lot of one particular phrase . . .
You are beautiful!
But this time it won’t come from a young man in the sunscreen aisle at the drugstore.
From now on, those loving words will come from within.
Excerpted from: “Hands Free Mama – A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters” by Rachel Macy Stafford ©2014. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. Available at http://www.zondervan.com/hands-free-mama.html