When I was in high school, my dear friend Emily would address me by saying, "Hey, beautiful!" It always unnerved me back then, though I would never have been able to articulate why. With my 20-20 hindsight, however, I can quite easily tell you why: I didn't believe I was beautiful.
I never mentioned this to Emily, of course, because sheesh, how rude would THAT be. And so she kept doing it. And so I kept cringing. But eventually the cringing lessened, and then subsided completely. And on a day to day basis, I still struggle to believe that I'm beautiful. But what I DO believe is that Emily thinks I'm beautiful. I believe that every day, and it is meaningful and helpful and a generous gift for her to have given me.
And now, years later, I've adopted this practice as my own. It is a subtle but consistent way to remind the women in my life that dammit, I think they're gorgeous. Even if they don't believe that they're gorgeous. And gorgeous will never be their most important contribution to the world, and I make a point of telling them that they are wise and talented and valued and unique and inspiring, too. But I want them to know how I see them because it so frequently clashes with how they see themselves. And I can do it so quickly and casually as the opener to our conversations -- before we dig into the meat of our conversation and as an almost subliminal reminder -- and I just love that.
Helping women recognize and accept their own beauty is an important goal to me, and it's a daunting one. But some helping is easy. I may not be able to reprogram the fashion industry to want diverse female bodies on the runway, or convince clothing manufacturers that plus-sized women deserve flattering, stylish options or keep teenage girls from developing eating disorders. But I can say, "Hey beautiful," when greeting all the fantastically beautiful women in my life, and slowly chip away at their disbelief.