Caring for Cinderella
Once a week, usually on Sunday afternoons, my sister and I do something together. We’ve gone to painting classes, we’re going zip lining, this coming weekend we are going for a drive to Pigeon Forge to white water raft on the Ocoee River, we go eat every weekend and, most of all, we shop. We spent five hours recently at Opry Mills. We haunt bookstores and thrift shops like Goodwill. On Black Friday, we shopped for a consecutive (meaning “without stopping”) 32 hours. Shopping with my sister is like running a marathon. She can shop all day long, go home with nothing and be happy about the fact she spent numerous hours shopping without getting anything. She will walk into a store and then proceed to physically touch and examine nearly every piece of clothing in the place. She’ll try on dozens, and I try hard to keep her away from certain areas because, if I wasn’t there to drag her away from them, she’d never leave. Me, on the other hand, me, I attack shopping like it’s a fly in my way. I usually “shop” from home and then, if I can’t find what I want, or if I’m not sure, I’ll reluctantly go to the store, speed walk to the relevant section, quickly grab the coolest thing I see and hightail it out of the place. I do not “browse.”. So my sister’s method used to drive me insane. Not only did it feel like a waste of valuable time but it was physically exhausting. I could not see what the heck the big deal was.
Recently, I had a revelation, one for which Mandi will be very happy. As I was looking at things I knew I would not buy, and being talked into trying them on by my sister, it dawned on me that clothes matter. You see, I may have cute clothes but I don’t see them as such. I see them as articles of warmth. I see them as psychologically helpful as I have no desire to parade around naked. Basically, I buy clothes because I have to have them. I don’t think about what style jeans I’m buying—flare, low rise, boot cut—I mean, as long as they fit and look kind of neat, I’m good. I couldn’t care less what an A-line dress is or how it will fall on my body. If it catches my eye, and I –need– a new dress, I’ll try it on to make sure it isn’t hideous. I don’t map out what type of clothes look “best” on me and then look specifically for that type of clothing. I only buy new clothes for myself, like, once every five years so, I mean, really, why put too much thought into it? Me and Wheeza, from “Steel Magnolias” probably have similar views on clothes. I want to look ok, sure, but I don’t want to spend my time staring at shirts that, except for the colors, all look the same. For thirty one years, I’ve managed to get by alright. Unfortunately, my sister designs clothes in her sleep. Shopping is fun to her. And I like my sister, so I agreed to shop with her.
Eventually, this bought about the startling revelation that shopping for clothes isn’t really about shopping at all. It’s about feeling good about yourself. You see, if I put on an outfit that I can’t stand…. The whole day just got off to the wrong start. I work at home, and only go outside to play. Staying in comfy pjs makes perfect sense to me. Except that, if I do it enough, slowly, day by day, I start to FEEL inferior to other women. I start to feel simple and plain, and… Well, ugly. I get dressed every day not because I’m necessarily going to leave the house, or have visitors. I get dressed every day because doing so makes me feel better about being me. Until fairly recently, I loved dressing up for no reason. I’d wear “dress up” pants instead of jeans every day. I’d fix my hair every day. I’d never be caught dead outside without foundation on. Dressy clothes made me feel pretty, made it easier to fool myself. Slowly, jeans became more common because it really isn’t easy to crawl through tunnels in skirts or dressy pants. I was too occupied with playing, I didn’t have time to care about clothes.
It’s easy to forget myself. But shopping can be a gentle reminder of what it’s like, and of how important it is, to give ourselves permission to feel pretty, feminine, all that. Sometimes, my sister and I would see really nice dresses and try them on, even though we knew we weren’t spending “that kind of money” that day. Still, I’d try on a fancy dress, walk out into the dressing area to view the three way mirrors and twirl, feeling my heart do a funny little leap at the mirror’s reflection. It wasn’t that I was so beautiful–and yet it was. I mean, honestly…. What little girl has never longed to slide her foot into a glass slipper? What teenage girl has never dreamt of finding a magical dress for prom? What bride doesn’t want the perfect dress, the one that makes her feel deep inside that, yes, today IS her time to shine? On a smaller scale, the clothes we adorn ourselves in do the same thing every day. We want to “look our best” because it helps us to “feel our best.” It gives us a small measure of extra confidence.
The truth is we are more than moms. We are more than wives. We are more than executives. We are more than waitresses. We are more than college students. We are women, human beings. And like all human beings, we struggle to maintain a piece of that childhood confidence that assured us we were princesses and queens. The flaws that we are all too aware of, criticism and heartbreak… They all scratch at that confidence every day. Bits of it chip away until we’re weary, and it’s easier to begin avoiding mirrors and “give up trying”. We think we have to “accept who we are” but, really, what we’e accepting is a lie. We’re accepting the lie that says ten, or twenty, pounds matters. We’re accepting the lie that says a $100 dollar hairstyle is better than old fashioned curlers. We accept the lie that whispers beautiful means model. We accept the lie that says we’re plain, and that’s the way it is. We start to believe that make-up, curlers and dresses are a waste of time because they won’t transform us into our idea of beautiful. Sweat pants and tee shirts replace jeans and Old Navy shirts.
All of that is a lie.
We are princesses in sweat pants and unbrushed hair. We are beautiful princesses without a lick of make up. No amount of lipstick can make our smile any more precious, any more beautiful or bright. It does not matter whether our purse is Gucci or Wal-Mart. Materialistic things come and they go. We are made in the image of a beautiful, powerful and perfect God who has never and will never make a single mistake. But. We have to give ourselves daily reminders of our royal heritage. We have to remember to care for our fragile self esteem and confidence just as we would fiercely protect the confidence of our children. We have to be gentle with ourselves. And, sometimes, the best reminder is a tangible piece of clothing that we see as beautiful and luxurious. Sometimes putting make up on is something we do not because it really makes us look that much better but because it makes us FEEL prettier. We can tell ourselves affirmations every day, and they help us believe in ourselves, but, sometimes, we need something more. A magical, idyllic date, the look in someone’s eyes as he gazes a us, the feel of soft fabric as it dances around us. Clothes don’t make us shine, they don’t make us beautiful—but they can give us that gentle nudge, they can act as a reminder to share and be proud of all the inner beauty that marks us just as royal as Miss America. We shine the brightest, we effortlessly share our best self with others when we feel good about ourselves.
It’s easy to overlook ourselves. It’s easy to get so caught up in giving that you forget to give to yourself. It’s easy to forget that we’re princesses. But my doctor told me that there is no point to pain… It is, she said, a physiological reaction that is designed to tell us that something is wrong and we need to do something to fix it. If we “solider through” the pain, if we allow ourselves to drown in the pain of the fatigue, in the stress, we don’t gain anything, we don’t prove anything–instead, we merely prolong the pain, make ourselves weaker and weaker, make it harder and harder for our real beauty, that which makes us who we are, to shine.
Princesses take care of themselves — they know that giving to themselves every now and then helps them be stronger and sweeter, helps them shine brighter and longer than when they lose themselves in service. It isn’t selfish to give heed to the whisper that wants us to light candles and take a bubble bath, or to spend three hours looking at lovely things. It isn’t selfish to find something that makes us smile even though no one else sees… It’s protecting the light that shines inside, the light that enables us to give hundreds of piggy back rides, read a thousand stories or host a dozen sleepovers. It protects the light that allows us to lead, allows us to worship joyfully, allows us to believe in hope and mankind. If taking care of themselves means to write, then they need to write regularly. If it means dancing, they need to dance. And if it means looking at clothes they find lovely without buying a single item, then they need to shop. Real beauty starts on the inside and bursts through our smiles, the twinkle in our eyes, the embraces we give and the work our hands do. Real beauty needs to be taken care of, protected, and we do that when we rest, when we take time to remember what used to fire our passions, drive our motivations and color our dreams. Those around us are precious. Their needs, desires, talents and sorrows matter. They are princes and princesses too, and our first goal should always be to reach our hand out to them. But once our responsibilities are met, once our children are happy and safe.. We need to find a mirror and care for the one whose beautiful reflection we see staring back at us for she, too, is a princess of immeasurable worth.
Beautifully said!!!! Self-esteem doesn’t come from the materials but the materials can reflect our self-esteem. Confidence stems from understanding our role in life not trying to take others. Everybody isn’t born with good look but they are born with something that will allow them to stand out. Not everyone can lead but those who follow will have to be a leader in some aspect of their lives. I agree with your overall concept but I don’t agree that everyone is princes or princesses. I believe some are born royalty while other scholars, some wizards, and others peasants. We are all born human beings and we all service a greater purpose. Self-worth stems from accepting our place in life and demanding respect regardless. Every title comes with a set of responsible and we need to honor our titles. I have been the best looking guy in school and I have been one of the least desired people also. I realized that accepting my place allowed me to have a place. When I looked outside my window into someone else’s, I was always miserable. When I had all the women I wanted to be liked for more than looks and when I was desired by minimum; I wanted maximum. Now, when you talk about beauty you hit it right on the nose. Beauty is what we have to search for in ourselves and share it with the world. Beauty is what allows the world to be beautiful not the titles which blind us from seeing each other’s beauty. Enjoyed the read, as usual!!!!
“Everyone isn’t born with good looks but everyone is born with something that will allow them to stand out.” This really taps into what my overall point was. Everyone is beautiful because they are human beings, capable of forgiveness, grace, intelligent thinking, etc. I have to disagree on the prince/princess thing because I believe that even the lowliest peasant was created in the image of God and is, therefore, the son or daughter of the mightiest King. A peasant is only a true peasant when he or she never believes in him/herself enough to fulfill her own potential. God endows each of us with a gift that we are meant to nurture and share, thereby glorifying Him, enriching others’ lives and our own life. Not everyone finds and/or uses her talent, which, I believe, leads to a difficult struggle with self esteem and confidence because, in order to fulfill our potential, we have to believe that something about us does indeed stand out, something is beautiful about us. That something, in my world, starts with being God’s princess, His child, is made stronger when I nourish my whole self (appearance and inner esteem) and then share with others. The titles placed on us by man are really irrelevant because, with the right combination of grace and hard work, a peasant IS capable of achieving beyond his “station” just as a member of the royal palace can be ostracized. Beauty isn’t who we are, by any means, but it can remind us that we are beings of worth. So thankful for your in-depth and consistent comments! 🙂
When talking about spirituality yes we are all God’s children, but earthy titles do matter, labels are very important in our existence. we have to be about to communication to identify things or even people. My biggest pet peeve is misusing descriptive to give someone a false sense of comfort. ex: “Your not fat” when someone is over weight or A slim person defining themselves as fat when they can use an cheese burger or two! Confidence will comes from understanding that you are what you are first and if you don’t like something change it. Like i mentioned before, i get the message you was relying, but i got lost in translation. I thought you was talking about the earthly title of prince and princess. I thought you was coming from the standpoint that everybody has the same status in there existence. Like we all can be president which isn’t true. We have our calling whether its president or wonderful stay at home parent. We may not be Jesus but we may have given birth to him. We all serve a purpose!!!!