One morning last week, after I'd gotten my kids up and out the door, lunches packed, breakfast eaten, hair and teeth brushed, hugs and kisses given, I came home and jumped on my computer before racing off to teach a yoga class. I answered a few emails and went to check the business page for our yoga studio on Facebook. But before I got there, something popped up in my newsfeed. A woman I know in passing posted this update: "I just saw a woman tweezing her eyebrows and chin hairs at a red light. Gross." And there were comments below from people agreeing that this was, indeed, disgusting, and something best left for one's bathroom, and they were all from other women.
It so happened that my class was full of women that morning, and as I looked around the room at all these beautiful people breathing and sweating and taking some time to get right with themselves, I wondered how many of them were suffering under the pressure to do everything well, and to look great while doing it. And so the theme of my class that day became self-compassion.
Of course it would be great if we could tweeze whatever we need to tweeze in the privacy of our own bathrooms. But who knows what was going on in that woman's life? Maybe she works two jobs to feed her family. Maybe she's dealing with the heartache of a sick child and things like chin hairs don't phase her anymore. Maybe her partner is in the hospital, or she was on her way to a job interview after being up all night because her mother just passed away, or maybe a million other things are happening.
It's hard enough. We have a finite and unknown amount of time, and so does everyone else -- even those people we love beyond words. We don't know what happens after this. On top of all that, we live in a society where we're taught that happiness lies in external things. If we just have enough money, a big enough house and small enough waistline, then we'll be happy. But I think many of us have figured out that isn't true. Life is not something that's going to happen one day out in front of us when things calm down, or we lose 10 pounds or find someone to "complete" us. Life is happening right now, this is it. The morning with your kids as you race out the door is your life. The time you take to listen to what they're saying is a precious moment you'll only get once. Maybe you'll blow some of those moments, but if you miss too many, that's part of your life, and theirs, that you'll never have back again. That's so much more important and interesting and beautiful than anything you could ever see on a bank statement.
Connection is the best thing in life. Having people who know you and see you and cherish you, people you also see clearly in all their beauty and vulnerability and occasional absurdity, is really the stuff. As is knowing yourself, figuring out what lights you up. Uncovering your particular gifts, so you can spend your time offering up whatever you've got to give. That's incredibly gratifying, it gives life meaning and purpose. Few things feel as good as increasing the happiness quotient of another person, and that includes not just our children, our families, our friends, but also people we don't even know, like the person in the car next to us.
Snarkiness is an equal opportunity offender, and men are at its mercy as much as women. It just so happened that the update in my feed was by a woman, about another woman, and a bunch of women jumped on the bandwagon to judge her. Why? If we're feeling good about ourselves, we aren't going to be inclined to tear down someone else, and certainly not to a degree where we'd take the time to express it in a public forum. But it's hard to have compassion for ourselves when we're bombarded with messages all day long, letting us know we just don't measure up. We don't look right or smell right or feel right, so we need diets and products and pills. It's enough to make a person desperate if they don't step outside the craziness. It's enough to drive a woman to post about a stranger with her tweezers, because maybe she isn't perfect, but at least she isn't doing that!
For women in particular there is a pressure to do it all. To have the career and the family and to look amazing and be ready for hot sex at the drop of a hat, all at once. Maybe we could be a little kinder to ourselves, and also to each other. Maybe we could stop passing messages to our daughters that their worth is tied up in a number on the scale. (We aren't doing a great job for our boys, either, but that's for another post). I don't own a scale and I don't diet, and I don't stand in front of the mirror scrunching up my nose at my reflection, not because I don't feel like doing some of those things sometimes, but because I don't want my daughter or my son to grow up buying into the idea that they are not enough. That's what leads a person to write unkind status updates about strangers in other vehicles. It begins at home, and it begins inside each of us, too.
It starts with the voice inside your head. Is it relentless and unforgiving, or is it patient and kind? What's the quality of the relationship you're having with yourself? Because that's the foundation for everything else. Maybe you're already kind to yourself. But if you aren't, it's probably time to shine some light on that. So it doesn't break your heart and seep into your status updates.