A couple of years ago, after a bit of time under some dark greyish clouds, I visited a psychologist. I imagine (based on movies and sitcoms, because: real life) that my appointments were pretty cookie cutter discussions – mother issues, father issues, in-law issues, daughter issues, son issues, friend issues, ex-friend issues and self-issues. That’s pretty much where the buck stopped. I was feeling pretty lousy about myself and I needed to not feel lousy about myself.
As an outcome of one of my appointments, I vowed to not describe people, either in my mind or in discussion with others, based on their physical attributes (I had a clever psychologist who made me come up with my own strategies. Very well played). I wasn’t “allowed” to describe the other mum at school as “the one who always looks so stylish”, or the checkout operator at the local supermarket as the “larger woman” or the sports umpire who “sort of walks funny.” Instead, I had use things like “that mum who is really social and chats to everyone,” or “that checkout operator who is really efficient,” or “that woman who is always so enthusiastic.”
‘Twas challenging. Damn challenging.
Our automatic response is to go for the physical description every time, it’s not necessarily derogatory, it’s just the easiest way to differentiate one person from another. (Thankfully I didn’t witness a crime during that period. Can you imagine me ringing crime stoppers: “The offender was mean, but I got the impression he was more sad than mean. He was very skilful with a flick knife and his pronunciation of profanities was on point”).
Even though the challenge was huge, so too was the impact on my sorry-self.
Suddenly, unintentionally and subconsciously, I started see the non-physical characteristics in little old me.
BOOM! BOOM! and BOOM!
My confidence went up. I stopped moping about the way my stomach rolls when I sit. I stopped wishing I would “catch” a wee-little dose of anorexia. I stopped seeing the bits of me that I hated and started considering the possibility that people saw more to me than the size of my arse.
It was a real revelation and (sadly) I got to ditch my psychologist appointments pretty quick (I really liked her).
Here’s the thing: If we look at people physically, very few people fit the mould of “beautiful”. But if we look at people characteristically, very few people fit the mould of ugly.
It’s a pretty good practice, except maybe in the case of a bank robbery, to bypass the lazy old habit of describing people physically and instead try to describe them by their nature, their skills, their aura or their vibe. Just not their appearance.
And it’s darn healthy to do the same for yourself too.