*My sisters are both going to hate me for posting a picture of us playing in the creek...Hopefully I can be granted forgiveness someday. On the far left is my sister Natalie, very much grown up from the little toddler in the story below.
When I was a teenager, my little sister, Natalie, who was about 3 years old at the time, developed an unhealthy, intense disgust for me. We had never had any problems, and I had lovingly nurtured and helped care for her from the day she was born, and I loved the crazy, curly haired little hellion. Almost suddenly, she started behaving in a very bizarre way when I would enter the room or violate her personal domain. This tiny pale little imp would start wailing, stamping her little feet indignantly and telling me to "get out" because I was"ugly". We all know how brutally honest kids are, so to hear my sister call me ugly was visceral blow.
This actually continued on for a good couple of weeks. If I wasn't technically "ugly" before, I sure as hell felt hideous, as I was actually scaring and disturbing this little kid whom I loved so dearly. It was always the same. I would simply get near Natalie, and out would come the tears and declarations of how she didn't want to be near me. Now, I was definitely an adequately awkward teenager, but certainly nothing approaching the loathesome monster that Nat must have been seeing. My mom was getting equally frustrated, as we both endeavored to figure out what the real problem here could be. My kind, wise mother assured me that I wasn't ugly, and that my sister was maybe just going through some strange little emotionally charged phase of toddler-hood.
One day, my sister threw a SERIOUS screaming kicking I-don't-want-Chelle-here kind of fit. I may have possibly done some immature and impatient screaming back at her, and my mom stepped in and showed a more impressive level of anger than both of us put together. Later, when we were cooled down, I was vigorously kneading some dough into loaves for homemade bread, with tears sliding down my ruddy cheeks and onto the dusty flour-laden countertop. My mom came in, put her arm around me, and calmly explained what was causing Natalie's tantrums. Very candidly, she said, "Michelle, little children are very sensitive to people's moods, facial expressions, and attitudes that they are showing out to the world. Natalie doesn't think YOU are ugly, she think that your attitude is ugly." My mom went on to explain that my moody anguished-soul, no-one-understands-me, my-feelings-are-so-deep, emo crap was actually making me ugly on more of a "metaphysical" level. It was like I had the "aura" of a moping, brooding, negative cloud of angry puberty. My little sister thought it was ugly. It was.
I spent a LOT of time after that trying to change my attitude. It has been a daily struggle ever since, and this ultimate foe of negativity still wakes me up in the morning, greeting me with all of the gloom in the world, heaping responsibilities onto my very soul, and yearning to make me ugly.
The good news is that I feel as though I DID make a serious break-through, which I would like to share with you all. The breakthrough actually came when I was watching the most recent Batman movie. I was biting my nails, squirming in my chair, and freaking out any time a person in the theatre would get up to leave or come in (I was watching the movie only days after the shootings in Aurora, CO. I'm sure that everyone had that vague fear lurking somewhere in the back of their minds.). The movie is SOOO intense, and I was truly horrified that people had brought little kids to see it. There is a portion of the movie where Bruce Wayne gets captured by the bad guy and thrown into a big pit that serves as a prison for lots of inmates. The prisoners remain at the bottom of this well-like cavern, looking up and plainly seeing daylight and the possibility of escape. There are stones jutting out in a spiral going up the inside of the pit, and one could climb almost all the way to the mouth, where there are two outcroppings of rock spaced a good amount apart from each other. If you can jump from the one rock across the chasm to the very last and highest step, you could easily climb out and you would be free.
The movie shows several attempts by prisoners to make this feat. They take a very strong rope and tie it securely so that if they miss that very last jump to freedom, they won't fall and splatter to their deaths on the stone floor below. The rope painfully swings them into the walls, beating them up, but preserving their lives. Bruce tries repeatedly to make this great leap, but keeps swinging to failure on his rope. Through several beautiful scenes and soul-searching discussions, he discovers that the only way out is to take off the rope and make the leap alone. This rope that he thought was saving his life was the whole reason he couldn't save his life. He had stated that he feared nothing, not even death, but the fear of his own death was the only motivator that was strong enough to help him make the leap. This imagery resonates so deeply within me and my own life. How many times are we held back by the very things that we believe are giving us life? How many times do we have TRULY legitimate excuses for why we cannot do something, even the fact that we might DIE, and yet these excuses ARE the rope that holds us back, swings us painfully to failure, and puts us at the bottom of the pit?
In my case, I thought that wanting to make money to take care of my family was a motivator, but it was making me miserable, in a never ending quest of "not enough" and "not satisfied." I had to cut that rope, and look beyond myself, beyond my family, beyond my dreams. I had to figure out a strong enough motivator that it would conquer the petty emotions. Not to be cocky, but I believe I have figured it out. The second I took my focus off of the money, and focused on a very simply goal- to make women feel beautiful and see themselves how others see them, and ultimately, how God sees them (sorry, guys, I'm a Christian, and I'm not backing down. Whatever higher power you happen to believe is out there, I can promise you that they look at you through different lenses than the ones in your own brain.) something wonderful happened, and my attitude became beautiful again. When I cut the rope of "I have to make money! I have to get these women to buy corsets!!!" and started focusing on "We live in a sick world that wants women to hate themselves, and if I can get them to look in the mirror and see even a GLIMPSE of how lovely they are, we can all change the world together."
May I just end with something that sounds cheesy, but it's true, and that's why it needs to be repeated. The world IS a pretty awful place, but expecting the government, other people, businesses, or organizations to take care of it will end in ultimate failure. You only have control over you, and unless you can "cut the ropes" that bind you, hold you back, and make you into the small, sad version of yourself, you will never be able to make that leap to freedom and step into the light. It's up to you to identify the things that are holding you back, and unfortunately, they will most likely be the things that are most important and deeply ingrained into you. Try facing your pride. It's not fun. I can just promise you that there is a world waiting for you, and you can't even imagine how wonderful it is, but the prize must be equal to the sacrifice.
For a start, just to help me with my goal, try looking in the mirror and imagining how God sees you. It's a good exercise. If nothing else, imagine how I see you. It's probably a heck of a lot better than what you see. I would love to help you change your brain, and I can promise that all of you ladies who have sent me emails, posted on facebook, met me at festivals, and supported my company have TRULY helped me to see something beautiful in the mirror, and I thank you deeply for that.