Last week, I was riding the elevator in the Parking Garage at work. There were three people with me. Just as the elevator doors were about to close, someone stuck their foot between the doors and let themselves in. It was a woman. She was tall. Very tall. And very beautiful. The other three people riding the elevator all looked at the woman, then at each other. We rode the elevator in silence. All five of us got off the floor that connects to another set of elevators that take us up to the main office building where I work. The tall, beautiful lady took the stairs. The rest of us got into the elevator to take us to our respective floors. When the doors closed, all three of the people began commenting on the woman's height. Their comments were not very kind.
I listened to them in surprise. It seemed to me that the tall woman represented everything I would want if I had the ability to choose how I looked. Not only was she tall, she had a near-perfect face. High cheekbones, pleasant lips that curved into a smile, intense dark eyes and a nose that was just the correct size to compliment her face. She could easily be a model. Yet here I was, listening to people making snide comments about her height. Part of me began to wonder what they would say about me if I wasn't riding the elevator with them.
I thought about this incident all afternoon. Growing up and into my adult years, I always thought that I was never good enough. I was either too fat, too dark skinned, had a loud voice, laughed too loud, was too rude, was too naive, was too smart, too stupid, too short. I never did quite measure up. That's what I was told by people at various different times in my life. When I expressed the hurt I felt, I was told that I was being too sensitive. I believed the criticism to be the truth about myself. I just assumed that it was people like me, who had so much "wrong" with them that heard this from other people. I never thought that someone who I thought was as close to perfection as one cold be would be thought of in a negative way. I couldn't imagine that a positive attribute like height would be turned into a feature to be laughed at and mocked.
My thoughts turned back away from myself and to the tall lady. I wondered how many people actually confronted her with negative comments about her height. I wonder how she felt growing up. She was probably taller than her classmates. Did they give her a bad time about it? Most likely. Did they call her names because of her height? Probably. While riding the elevator, I noticed that she had on shoes that had no heel at all. I couldn't help but think that she would have to make a special effort to find footwear that were flat. That would mean that she possibly had never experienced the thrill of wearing high-heeled footwear. She probably had to shop in a special section of a store for clothes. Most of the time she may not have found clothes her size. And while I don't know if any of this is true, what I do know is that a seemingly perfect life may not have been so perfect after all. This made me realize that everyone, no matter who they were, had been ridiculed by someone else, and nobody was exempt. I also realized that it was up to each of us to decide whether to let it make or break us. It's too bad that I allowed other peoples' opinions of me define my life for a long time. However, it's never too late to change that.
One lesson that I learned along the way and have tried to apply to my life is this: I have no control of what people say to and about me, but I have full control on how I respond. It may sound like a cliche, but I when I actually live by it, it has worked for me. No matter what people say or think about how I look, talk or behave, this is who I am. I cannot change the way I look. As long as the way I talk and behave doesn't hurt or harm them, it isn't necessary for me to change who I am. I have learned to embrace my perceived imperfections and am very happy with the person I've grown to become. There are always going to be people around me who try to bring me down. If people don't accept me for who I am, that's their problem.
In the eyes of The One that made me, I am perfect. So are you.