Because sometimes (ok, often) I forget

I've mentioned before that people often tell me I look like someone they know. This can be awkward when I don't know the person they are comparing me to but I usually take it as a compliment, thinking I would never voice a negative comparison to one of my friends. The times when people have compared me to someone famous are usually flattering, no Gwyneth Paltrows mind you, but no one I'm embarassed about either. Recently, a friend of mine told me I look just like another woman we both knew from church.

Now I hate to admit this, but I was crushed. Pamela* is a dear sweet woman, but I would not place her in the same category as some of the more attractive women I know. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it's true. This one little statement knocked my big fragile ego off its unsturdy perch and I became obsessed with bad thoughts. In fact, they stayed on repeat in that broken record player called my head for an entire week. I pity partied 'til the party was over: remembered elementary school insults and poor yearbook pictures, daydreamed of flirting with male friends and receiving their compliments, entertained new notions of beauty enhancement. Yet it seemed nothing would reboot my self-esteem. I kept picturing Pamela's face, then my face, trying to figure out the resemblance my friend saw. I honestly couldn't see it, but my friend had. And if she saw the likeness, that meant everyone else did, right?

I told my husband, asked his opinion. “If you say so,” he shrugged. “I don't see it.” He was sincere and I knew it, but still I was not convinced.

The intensely shallow and most embarrassing thing about all of this is that I think of my friend as one of “those” people. You know who I'm talking about, the real life Barbies of the world: perfect skin, shiny hair, just the right height and weight. I don't mean to say she was a mean girl. I've just always seen her as the real pretty girl, you know, the Kelly to my Brenda. But now things were different. She was still Kelly, but who was I? Donna? Not likely. Andrea? Definitely smart enough, but no, I was pretty sure I'd moved out of the zip code. I kept thinking she must be really lowering her standards to hang out with me, the ugly girl.

I know. It's repulsive of me to think such things about people for we are ALL beautiful in our Maker's eyes. And I knew it saddened His heart to find me thinking such thoughts about myself, so I sat down to write about it. I confessed my feelings in black and white and the part of my heart I let Him stay in began talking:

Dear One,
I thought we already worked through all of this . . .
Have you forgotten everything I taught you?
You are so beautiful to me. YOU are my lovely one.

But I didn't want to hear it, not from Him. Of course He thinks so, that's His job. Not to mention He was the One who caused all those freckles to light on my nose. Bound the large teeth in my mouth with gums. He decided I would have fair, but not creamy skin. Picked my straight, brown hair and short, pear-shaped stature. He put those intense, wiry eyebrows in their exact place, then added my infernal birth mark. It was only natural for Him to like what he saw. And like I said, His words were not what I longed for.

No. I wanted the cover of People magazine. I wanted long and leering looks from the boys in the stands of the high school football game. I wanted to be the star in the shampoo commercial whose friends were green with envy. I wanted to hear how pretty the world thought I was. I cared only for its input. I was a dog licking his wounds, so completely sure of my own needs.
“Do not offer me your stitches and your Neosporin,” I said. “What cure can your medicines ever provide for me?”

I got up from the computer and returned to my day. The baby woke up, the husband came home and life called out to me. So I went to Yoga. I don't remember if it was on the drive there, windows rolled down, enjoying the spring breeze, or somewhere in the middle of all that deep breathing, but I found myself listening to this inner dialogue:

I know what I need.


Not want, need.





Wah – unt.

Nee – eed.



One- tuh?

W-A-N-T. Want.

. . . want.

After Yoga, I ate lunch. After lunch, I watched a movie. After the movie, I made cinnamon bread to take to my MOPS meeting at six. Then I had to get myself ready. In the shower, I prayed. I don't remember exactly what I said, something about being a big mess and needing help seeing what God sees. I think I mentioned wanting to store up treasures in heaven instead of here on earth.

I got to MOPS about five minutes late and walked to the buffet table to put my bread down. Then I said “hi” to a few of my new friends. One of them commented on my flip-flopped feet. “Your feet are so tiny," she said with just the slightest hint of envy. I made my standard joke about how they barely held me up. Polite laughter was followed by an older friend waving me over.

“I just love your hair cut like that,” she said.

I stepped closer to tell her I thought my roots were beginning to show.

“No,” she said, “it looks great!”

“Well, I've been thinking about growing it out, not real long; but I just can't decide what to do.”

“I would love to able to wear my hair short. You've got such cute ears, you can fix your hair however you want.”

Pour it on, I thought to myself.

Ok, I think I will, I heard.

I nearly laughed out loud. At myself. At my weak mind and scared heart.

A few days later, I got a card in the mail from Kelly*. “I'm glad you're my friend,” she'd written, before signing her name at the bottom. I glanced back to the top of the card to see my name and realized she'd left it off. I guess she just skipped it (you have to know how busy this girl likes to keeps herself). Or maybe she figured if the card came to my mailbox, I would know it was for me. But don't worry, though it wasn't there for me to read in black and white, I knew what my name was -- I remembered it driving home from MOPS the other night. I was gliding down a winding hill, headlights shining in the dark, listening to this.

(* indicates fake name)


Nathaniel said...

You are way prettier than any Gwyneth Paltrows I ever saw.

Teela said...

Does hearing, "you're soooo cute" from you mom count?

Janna Y. Barber said...

It's a good thing you live in AR buddy 'cause that is just the kind of comment that could get me in trouble all over again! But thanks anyway.

So long as you're not pinching my cheeks when you say it, yes.

Capt. Flipout said...

altogether lovely...

Tricia said...

Isn't it crazy how one random remark can set you back years in self esteem sometimes! I've been there!

Well, for the record, Brenda was always my favorite... and was way prettier I thought. And in "real life" I think Dylan would have stayed with her! HA!

Take care, girl - Tricia :-)

Cara said...

for whatever it's worth, i kinda think you look like me.
and i'm pretty cute.

(friend o' latonya-nator and the hamster)