This weekend, I decided to post a new profile picture in conjunction with my project #ReclaimBeauty. Now, this picture was nothing like pictures I had posted before and I had been really uncomfortable posting it given I had not done my hair, I had no make-up on, and I was just feeling all around a little uncomfortable in my own skin that day. But, I decided it was important I put myself out there the same as all of the brave people I have asked to participate are doing as this is a movement that cannot enact change unless we are ALL willing to be vulnerable together. And with that, I posted it. I was shocked when so many people started liking it and making positive comments. I did not see the joy and beauty in the picture. I had not looked in the mirror and thought I looked beautiful. But you reminded me I deserve that opportunity every day to look at myself and think, "I am beautiful". It was truly transformative and uplifting to have all of this positive energy. And then, Monday night, I saw someone from my family had commented on the picture. I was excited to see what they would say because even though I am not close with my family, I assumed they would be supportive of this movement given the opportunity it has to bring people together for the greater good. But then, I saw it. There it was...all spelled out and in just 8 words, I went from feeling beautiful and invigorated to ashamed and fake. In 8 words, they made me feel so small and tried to point me out as a hypocrite in my post. Sitting with my fiancé at dinner, my eyes started to well up with tears. I couldn’t understand why someone would make it a point to say something so mean, especially when what they said was a lie. What had I done to them? How could they not see the detrimental effects their words could have not only on me but everyone else involved in this project. I deleted the post immediately. I blocked them from my account and thought long and hard about calling them and telling them how much they hurt me with just a few ignorant and effortless keystrokes from miles away.
But then I stopped. I wiped away my tears, put my phone down and decided that was not what they needed. Instead, I needed to work towards forgiveness and finding a sense of empathy and understanding for their pain. I needed to extend the opportunity they may not have ever had to be seen on a different level - to look behind the facade.
I may not ever say it directly to them but thought it was important to share with all of you as a reminder that when people inflict pain and harm onto others, it is reasonable to want to shut them out but I think it is important to try and see beyond that initial anger or sadness to understand where that person is coming from and what they have had to endure that has led them to this negative place. When you can do that, and see beyond the act to look at the person as a whole, there is a greater sense of peace you can find. And in some cases, you can truly come into forgiveness. This is not to say anyone should ever feel pressure to do something they are not ready for or don't want to do, especially something as intense and personal as forgiveness. This is also not to say everyone should be forgiven. Rather, I pose the challenge to you to endure some of the pain others may cause and trudge through to a deeper sense of understanding and empathy so we can extend a hand rather than close the door.
To my distant loved one,
I felt really hurt after you made that comment on my Facebook page. The way we can tear someone down in just a few words is absolutely frightening. From anywhere in the world, we have the power to make people feel small and meaningless. Where does that come from? What urge does that fulfill? What love have you missed out on in your life that leads you to this dark place? I feel a sense of sadness for you and wish I could help you find hope and love and meaning in your life to take you away from these dark places. I wish I could tell you the things you never heard so you have the capacity to feel and bring love and joy into the lives of others. You have been brought down by the same system we are fighting against – one that is fueled by judgment and a constant need to tear others down because you feel so stuck in a cruel and hopeless world. A world where you don’t get to hear how valued and loved you are every day.
I want you to know that my passion to create positive change cannot be dragged down by your comment and rather, I understand where it came from and it is not your fault. I want you to know that you are worthy of love and joy and forgiveness. I, and all of the brave people who are joining me in the fight to #ReclaimBeauty, want to invite you and everyone else who has been overtaken with hatred and despair to join us in our quest so we can help you break free from those chains.
And lastly, I want you to know that you are beautiful and I forgive you.