As I was walking into the gym after work last night, I was greeted by the friendly faces of the ladies behind the front desk and one of my favorite female trainers, who I always indulge in casual banter with between sets. The ladies were so quick to tell me how perfect they all think I am. They told me how cute my hair looked (it was tossed into a quick pony at the last red light I hit en route) and how they all love to talk about how pretty I look when I come in every day. Accepting this as factual feedback was pretty difficult considering I always feel like a hot mess. Especially in my workout attire consisting of stretch pants and an oversized T-shirt.
They continued to compliment me by asking if there could possibly be anything wrong with me because they couldn’t seem to find a thing. They even went as far as comparing me to Megan Fox and stated that even she is known to have a de-formative pinky toe. I was quick to tell them that my big toes are also in fact pretty disproportionate to the rest of my feet thus causing people to refer to them as “Hammer Toes”. Although this seemed to put them at ease, I felt a little uncomfortable as I walked away.
It wasn’t the compliments that made me uneasy; it was my subconscious response to counter each one. As soon as I let myself feel a little elated from the flattery, I automatically thought that I should have told them more of my imperfections. Why did I feel guilty for being complimented and praised for being a beautiful person? (Even the idea of typing that I’m a “beautiful person” causes me to feel shame & narcissistic). I found myself wondering why I felt so inclined to prove their flattery wrong when it seemed to come from a genuine and kind place.
As I started my work out, I couldn’t help but reflect on all of the things I would change about myself. “The Hammer Toe” wasn’t even at the top of my list. I started to think that I should have told the girls that I have hair in places that I wish I didn’t. That I get a “food baby” after almost every meal I eat. That I’ve got white spots that don’t tan in the middle of my arms. That I almost always get something stuck in my teeth after a meal. That the bottoms of my feet feel like sand paper even after a pedicure. That I have a pimple on my cheek that just won’t go away.
Why is my brain programmed to automatically fight off the accusation of being “perfect”? So much so that I wish I provided a list to counter their compliments?
After thinking back to this experience, I wish I could have felt good about their flattery. I wish I could have taken their positivity and allowed myself to enjoy it without feeling guilty, shallow or narcissistic. As women, we owe it to ourselves to embrace all of the things we love about both ourselves and the women around us. In a world that tries so hard to break our spirit and challenge our positive energy, it’s increasingly important to embrace these moments of flattery and encouragement. Even if they’re centered on the concept of beauty and beauty might not always be as valuable as brains (it can feel just as good if you allow it to).
The idea of “perfection” is subjective. So if you are someone’s perfect, there should be no shame in accepting that. I wouldn’t encourage the idea of expecting the same reaction from everyone else in the gym… or the world, but take that moment, that relationship, that experience and allow yourself to embrace it. Bask in all its greatness and try your best to prevent yourself from turning it into negativity. Because I can’t think of an easier time to feel good about yourself than when others are feeling good about you. Every day, our world makes it more difficult to build our self-confidence, so we need to start allowing these moments to work as the building blocks.
I will never again feel obligated to put “My Hammer Toe” out into the universe as a way to balance flattery. Because I am perfect, in my own imperfect way.