My little girl is five years old and just entering the school system. She comes home each day with the fresh pre-primary gossip, including who played with her, who didn’t listen to the teachers, and what boy proposed to her that day. I love asking her questions to see how her little mind works.
Recently I asked for her thoughts on what compliment she would be most pleased to receive. She mulled it over and decided she loves it most when people call her smart, kind, and funny. (Amazing choices sweetheart!) But it got me thinking back to my school days, my teen years and even young adulthood. At that point in my life when my most prized compliment was, you’re not like other girls.
Flip on any teen movie and you’ll find the same sentiment. There are the “other girls”, portrayed as vapid, shallow ones who can’t carry on an intelligent conversation to save their lives. And then there is the protagonist, the girl not like the others. She is smart, witty, and non-threatening to the boys. She is the one who had been there all along, just waiting to take off her glasses and be revealed for the beauty she is. But there is something very wrong with this attitude. Something I have only come to realize in the last few years.
Those “other girls” are amazing.
They are sisters, mentors, geniuses, professionals, mothers, and people that I should strive to emulate. They are not a uniform group of automatons, catty and simple minded. They are beautiful, individual women who deserve to be celebrated, loved, and cheered for. It is not a compliment to be excluded from this group.
This truth took a long time to seep into my heart. As long as insecurity had its roots firmly planted in my mind, I would always need to find a way to convince myself of my own superiority. We may find ourselves seeking for something negative about another woman because it makes us feel like maybe we’re not the only ones who don’t have it all together. I did this, too often and for too long. But then, I think of the infamous “Proverbs 31 woman”, who seems flawless. Her many attributes are listed throughout the verses, including how:
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:25-27
Notice it doesn’t say “since she is clothed in dignity, there is none left for us”. There is actually plenty of dignity to go around. She speaks with wisdom, but we can too. We can celebrate her, learn from her, and still love ourselves in all our own strengths and weaknesses. Just as we can the women around us.
I was born when my mother was 18 years old, just out of high school and a “church kid”. But she held her head high and took on the challenge and now, 31 years later, she is still married to my father and has three healthy and happy adult children and four perfect grandchildren. My mother-in-law has experienced enormous, unimaginable loss, but she continues to love others with a tenacity that defies all expectation. My oldest friend is engaged in a frustrating legal battle in her attempt to adopt an abandoned baby, all as a single woman living in a remote community. My friend with adult children never fails to check in on me when she feels I may be struggling, to listen to all my problems, to offer her guidance, and to love me in all my messiness. I could go on. And on. And on.
I’m not like other girls? Well, you’re probably right. But with God’s help, maybe someday I will be.