The commercial I remember most was in 1979 with Meredith Baxter Birney for L’Oréal Preference Hair Color. She had beautiful, thick, soft, flowing hair. She said, “It looks like as if it feels like silk.” If you don’t quite remember the commercial here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmcCiB17TOk
I was nine years old and I remember being so mesmerized by her hair and her beauty. I was blessed with thin, fine hair with no body, let alone flowing locks. But what I remember most about the commercial was my Mom’s reaction. While many women looked at this as an anthem to feminine pride, my Mom’s reaction and explanation to me was that the commercial showed the actress as self-centered and conceited. “It wasn’t lady-like” was possibly the phrase she used.
For the record, I asked my Mom to recall her reaction to the commercial before I started writing this piece. To both of our surprise, she didn’t remember it this way at all. She remembered that she liked the idea that it was okay to want to look better. I remember my Mom always trying very hard to look her best. My Mom is an artist and an Interior Designer and was never shy about fashion and hair styles. My Mom had the hair, the make-up (fancy make-up), hats, clothes, the works. Shoes to match every purse and belt, and costume jewelry that had its own zip code in our house. Our house was the same way. Everything matched and looked like the front of a magazine.
So my recollection of this commercial, my Mom’s reaction and how I felt about myself were all very confusing. After my Mom told me how she remembered the commercial, I told her how I remembered her reaction, that the actress or the phrase was not lady-like. She wrote me back in an email and said, “You’re right, I think I did feel that way.”
This commercial and what I perceived as my Mom’s reaction had a very mixed message for me. It wasn’t lady-like to say “I’m worth it”. I should look good and be proper because that’s the JOB of a lady, even if looking a certain way didn’t feel natural to me. I was a tomboy in a dress! Deep down it felt more natural for me to dress in jeans and tennis shoes. I suppose that I enjoyed much of the cute things my Mom dressed me in, but I just wanted to be able to play during recess without worrying that I was going to get dirty.
My journey into uncovering my true-self, leads me into the areas of when, how and why I came to my false-self. From an early age I struggled with the feeling that my “worth” was tied to how I looked or how I dressed, and how I was perceived by others. But what felt natural too me was to be as simple as possible.
In our youth we are just doing our best to fit in where we can. Trying to maneuver through the awkward years of physical growth and developing our own sense of self. I believe it’s safe to say that everyone struggles with identity issues at some point. Some more than others. Patterns begin out of survival. And that’s when the layers start to pile on. We become addicted to the status quo even when it’s drowning us in heaviness. Same = Safe! It becomes one day after another of just making it through the day, while the heaviness continues to build. Until…
The day of awakening! Some have it sooner than others and some, unfortunately, may never really come to know themselves truly and deeply. Letting go is difficult because we have lived in survival for so long. And maybe we feel like, “We’re NOT worth it.”
Deep down I knew I was worth it, but I truly believed it wasn’t proper to act like I was. Even until a few years ago I felt like people who were so “In Your Face” confident were braggadocios and arrogant. But deep down, I thought, I want what she’s having.
It has taken me to this point in my life to start to speak up for myself. To show that I believe I am worth it. To be perfectly content with the fact that I enjoy the simplicity of my life. And that I don’t have to measure up to anyone else’s standards of who I am except God and Me! This is a daily practice in EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE. My survival instincts often to go back to pleasing everyone even when it doesn’t feel natural, just because it would be easier. Saying NO and standing up for myself, making my own way, leaves me open and vulnerable. But I am willing to learn and make mistakes for the sake of my true self!
“Because I’m Worth It!”
I’d like to leave you with a quote from Brené Brown
“When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It's a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.” --Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead