What Do You Say?

“Remember what you are and let this knowing
take you home to the Beloved with every breath.
Hold tenderly who you are and let a deeper knowing
colour the shape of your humanness”

~  Oriah Mountain Dreamer – The Call  ~

I hurt my colleague’s feelings on Friday.  It wasn’t intentional, although I must admit that I am not beating myself up over it.  It has however led to another moment of introspection.

I am loathe to talk about (I am going to call her) Sue at length, because she reads my blog from time to time, and I know that talking about her on here will most probably throw more salt on the wound.  But at the same time, there was something of value that I was reminded of,  and I would like to share it with you.

Our company attended an awards luncheon and Sue was seated beside me at the table.  I can’t remember what brought it on, but our conversation eventually led to this:

Sue:  “David, do you think that I am beautiful?”

Me:  “What do you say?  Do you think that you are beautiful?”

Hurt flashed across her eyes like lightning flashes across the sky – swift but intense, while illuminating everything in its path.  She paused and responded timidly, “I am beautiful, David.”  I could swear that I detected a hint of shame in her voice.

I then made the conscious decision to allow her to sit with what had taken place, so I ensured that our discussion died sudden death by changing the subject.

Now, before you decide to throw a Ming vase at me or call me, ‘Dracula’s Aunty,’ let me explain why I handled things in the way that I did.

You see, in the midst of what took place, lies a woman suffering from low self esteem, and she truly is suffering because of the way that she allows herself to be a doormat to everyone.  She has led a very sheltered life and found herself being flung out into the real world overnight, which I believe is part of why she relies so heavily on the affirmation on others.  I can relate with all of this because I see a lot of myself and where I used to be, in her.

I refuse to demean her by petting her on the head.  Over and above this, my choice not to affirm her beauty on Friday came from a place of, “don’t give me your power!”  She has been with our company for a month and a half, so why should my opinion be of any consequence to her?  It is ultimately her right (and responsibility) to define herself and determine that she is a beautiful human being.  And I certainly have no need to take that right away from her.

What saddens me about that experience is not so much that I had hurt her, but that there was no conviction in her voice when she said that she is a beautiful person.

It raises the questions:

Why are we willing to place more value on the opinion of others than on our own, most especially when it comes to things concerning ourselves?  Why are we so afraid (and possibly ashamed) of admitting that we believe that we are beautiful people?  Could it be that we don’t know who we are, so we allow others to define who we are for us?

“Never let someone’s opinion become your reality.
Never sacrifice who you are, or who you aspire to be,
because someone else has a problem with it.
Love who you are inside and out, and keep pushing forward.
No one else has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.
You are the only one who can create your dreams and happiness”

~  Marc Chernoff  ~


8 thoughts on “What Do You Say?

  1. I think it’s the latter—
    “Could it be that we don’t know who we are, so we allow others to define who we are for us?”

    I myself recently adopted this view in regards to others—
    Do not judge me by your own standards.
    Do not judge ME by YOUR own STANDARDS.
    Do NOT JUDGE ME by your own standards.

    The emphasis can be placed anywhere in this simple sentence and the meaning will remain the same.

    With regard to your co-worker, questions like these are double-edged. If you’d caved in and said ‘yes’, you’d only be enabling her sense of low self-esteem. As it is, I think you handled her question the best way you could. She’s apparently unaware of herself, who she is and how she fits into the world. If she were thrusted into this world literally from being nutured into adulthood where nothing is sacred or secure, it’s probably no wonder she’s have such issues.

    Now, are you the one to approach her and tell her your reasoning of why you said what you did when she asked you her all-important question, “David, do you think that I am beautiful?” I’ll bet you anything that she’s been laboring over it all weekend.

    Of course it could be possible that she’s attracted to you and this was her way to find out what you thought of her (not eloquently shall we say, but as honest as she could be at the time); however, that would require an entirely different approach whether you like her that way or not. My best wishes to you on this matter.

    • Thank you for your feedback, onestillbreathing. :-)

      Much as I am going to sound like a meanie, but I didn’t attempt to offer her any kind of explanation, even though I knew that there was the possibility of her sitting with it over the entire weekend. I believe that when we figure things out for ourselves, then they are of greater value.

      I made her aware of this post, yesterday afternoon and we discussed my intention behind it, much as I didn’t tell her what I had posted about.

      She told me this morning that she had read my blog and that she appreciated what I had to say.
      So yeah, I appreciate that she read what I had said, with the spirit with which it was intended. :-)

  2. You did what you felt was right, but I could not see the harm in reaffirming her. That is how I am when I approach life. It is to me very important when someone asks me for validation to remember who I am, a friend who is needed. I have to think about the many times I have needed someone to say, ‘you are beautiful inside and out.’

    • Hi Reocochran

      Please accept my apologies for a very tardy response? There’s been a lot on the go of late, including a bout with the flu.

      You are respectfully entitled to your opinion as to whether there was harm in affirming her or not, however I believe that I did the right thing. I do not feel that I have the right to open her up to scrutiny, but for me, it comes down to adage: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

      Thank you for visiting my blog and for taking the time to share your thoughts and opinions with me.

      Once again, my apologies for taking so long to respond.

      Be happy and well!

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