My mother-in-law tells this story of my husband, Judah:
When he was a baby, she would leave him in the nursery at church. When she came to pick him up, all the nursery women would be cooing around him. Mesmerized.
As he learned to talk, whenever she was frustrated with him about something, he would look her in the eye and say, “You’re so pretty, Mommy.”
And then he grew up and met me.
I have a stone-cold heart when it comes to compliments.
I can take any compliment and dismantle it in seconds.
If my mom spoke words of encouragement to me, easy dismantle. She’s my mom. She has to say those things.
As an actor, if friends came to see me in a show and complimented me, another easy dismantle. What are they supposed to say? “I’m not sure how you managed to get cast in that, but they clearly missed the mark when they chose you.”
Within our first year of marriage, Judah and I were headed out to dinner one night. I had showered, done my hair, put on makeup, and chosen a cute outfit. When I walked out of the bedroom, quite pleased with myself, poised and ready for his oohs and ahhs, I was met with, “Are you ready?”
I was rendered speechless which is hard to do.
Do you think I look pretty?
“Yeah. You look really pretty.”
You don’t get to just parrot what I said and expect me to believe it, I responded, hurt and defensive.
“But I do think you look pretty. I’m not parroting it back to you. I just hadn’t said it yet.”
It was too late. I couldn’t hear the truth of his words past my hurt.
Over the next several years, Judah would tell me he thought I was pretty without my having to ask.
Often, it was first thing in the morning while the previous night’s drool was still drying on my cheek and pillow.
Some mornings he’d tell me how beautiful I was, and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and see the hideous bedhead I’d spent all night crafting.
This is beautiful?!
Clearly, his eyes were broken.
Occasionally, he would try to pull the, “You’re pretty” card from his toddler years, but most of the time, this was a last-ditch effort to make me laugh and to lighten the mood rather than an honest attempt to get me to believe the truth of the statement.
He loves this mole on the back of my neck. He loves this dimple in my cheek that makes itself known with a smirk. He loves the expressiveness of my face that, when caught on camera, isn’t the world’s definition of beauty.
Does he think I’m perfect? No.
Does he think I’m beautiful? Yes.
Inside and out.
I am well aware of my imperfections. I could give an hours-long PowerPoint presentation on my shortcomings, complete with photos and a trail of pain.
Why can’t I stop for a moment and see myself through Judah’s eyes?
To see the beauty. To see the good. To see the cute and quirky. The different.
There are some parts of me only he gets to see. There’s beauty in that as well.
Why is it so scary to dare to see myself as worthy? Worthy of love. Worthy of care. Worthy of inconvenience.
Why would I rather ruminate in harsh focus on my ugly parts (inside and out) than bask in the glory of the beauty I do possess?
What I wouldn’t give to see myself through his eyes.