The other night at my friend Sara’s house, we were discussing swim suits and the fact that, while I now own one, I am not necessarily keen on the idea of wearing it in public places. Sara’s daughter Abby, a precocious first-grader, piped in to ask, “Jen, why do you hate your body?”
The question stopped me short — and I experienced the (rare for me) sensation of speechlessness. I looked to Sara for help, and Sara just shrugged as if to say, “Well, she’s a perceptive kid, whadda ya want me to do about it?”
What resulted was a conversation between Abby, Sara and I about choices. The ones we carelessly make and live to regret, the ones we make that have incremental impacts we don’t think about until it would take a herculean effort to reverse them. A bit heavy, you might think, for a kid Abby’s age, but she tracked on all of it.
And it brought home to me one of the things I have been learning, another “late bloomer aha”: the truth is a powerful thing. I’ve written before about my attempts to be more honest and how that has impacted me and my life. But what I’ve been thinking about since my chat with Abby is how, when we make the effort to be truthful, it can make a huge impact on others as well.
When we cover up, sugar coat, or stay silent it diminishes the other people we are in relationship with. It is as if we, like the Jack Nicholson character in “A Few Good Men”, are saying to them: “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Sounds pretty condescending when put that way, but isn’t that what we are doing when we decide it is in someone else’ best interest to fudge a little? or a lot? And when it comes to the children in my life, like Abby, I want to think carefully about the messages I send and example I set for them. So I told her the painful truth: I don’t hate my body. I love my body, but I am embarrassed by what poor care I have taken of it. Abby could handle it.
The other night, I was talking with Sue Stork, and repeating a story. She was surprised by something I recounted saying to another friend, and said, “Good for you for being honest. But really, this whole journey you’ve been on has been about being honest — especially with yourself, but also with others. This part of your life could be titled: Extreme Makeover: Honesty Edition”. Those who lived with me throughout my childhood would agree that I am an unlikely ambassador for truthfulness (they know I can tell some whoppers). However, like a zealous convert, I urge everyone to make the committment to be more honest in daily life. It is an important way to communicate your love, honor and respect for the people in your life.