I wish I knew that I am fine just the way that I am and that what I think of myself is far more important than what anyone else thinks. I have large, almond-shaped eyes, and I didn’t start to dislike them until I was in high school when a boy that I had a crush on called me “fish eyes” in front of others.
I remember being stunned and hurt that someone would say something like that, especially about a physical attribute that I couldn’t change. I just stood there before saying something like, ‘I do not!’ while his friends laughed.
It was in that moment that I gave another person the power to influence how I felt about myself. And that is a dangerous thing to do. Every attribute that others admired in me melted away in light of one person’s cruel remark said to get a laugh and boost his ego. I don’t even remember his name, but I won’t forget how those words made me feel and how I began to look at myself differently as a result of them being spoken.
From then on I wanted to, but couldn’t, make my eyes smaller; however, I could look away when someone was speaking directly to me. Why? Because in my mind if the person focused on my eyes, they would see how big they are and how much I looked like a fish, all because someone told me they did. I didn’t have enough self-confidence or self-esteem to know that my eyes were and are just fine the way they are.
It didn’t matter what my parents or friends said, I let what he said mean more than what I thought. Even worse, I internalized it. Some years after the high school incident, during an exam for my first pair of glasses, the simple words of my optometrist made me realize that I should be grateful for my large, almond-shaped eyes. You have wonderful eyes for glasses he said. I mumbled something about them being so large and he said, very quietly, “Do you know what some people would give to be able to have your eyes, to be able to see? “ In that moment, I realized that I was blessed to have my sight and that I should be thankful for it. And I stopped being defensive about the size of my eyes.
I’d held on to what someone else thought about one of my physical attributes for far too long. What a relief it was to take that power away from someone who had no right to it in the first place. During the years and romantic relationships that followed, I‘ve received compliments on my eyes. I appreciate them, but I don’t take them to heart.
My eyes are beautiful because I believe they are and that is what matters and I tell the children and young adults in my life that all the time. One last thought: Knowing what I do now, if I had an opportunity to go back to that day in high school my response to my ‘crush’ would have gone something like this: Really? Is that lame, stupid remark the best you can do? I then would have rolled my ‘big eyes’ and walked away.
- Sharon Pelham, Founder, Executive Consultant, Smith Carey Communications