I know what your mother told you — don’t worry about what other people think of you, it doesn’t matter. I know because I’ve told my children the same thing. It’s a sound piece of advice, except when it isn’t.
The truth is, sometimes other people see you more accurately than you see yourself.
It was the third Sunday in Advent, or maybe the second. My husband and I stood in front of the church with our children, lighting the Advent candles and reading from the Bible. Our children looked angelic. Our marriage looked easy. Our family might even have looked sweet in that moment.
Wow. Thirty minutes earlier we looked significantly less sweet, especially me.
That morning it felt like my family members were all moving as slow as molasses, had picked out their ugliest clothes, and were intent on embarrassing me at church. No one even wanted to practice their lines! I went into ugly mode and, not surprisingly, it didn’t help. I don’t remember everything I said, but I remember regretting the words as they came out.
But guess what? When we stood up in front of the church, no one could see any of that. We weren’t being fake, we were putting our best on display.
It wasn’t a lie, it was a true snapshot. Our children are truly angelic (sometimes), our marriage really is easy (sometimes), and our family can even be sweet (sometimes).
After church when people tried to compliment us, I rejected the praise saying, “Thank you. I’m glad it worked out, but the truth is, I was an ugly mess on the way here!” I didn’t feel worthy of the compliment.
Here’s the thing, though. I was wrong. We did deserve the compliment.
We put the best version of ourselves on display and I didn’t give us enough credit.
My question for you is: When you put your best forward, do you give yourself enough credit for that version of you?
Maybe the last time your child was late for a birthday party, while you felt embarrassed by your family’s lack of time management, another parent was impressed by your ability to move at your child’s pace.
Maybe the last time you showed up somewhere looking bedraggled and un-showered, while you felt tired and undone, someone else was impressed at your ability to be casual.
Maybe the last time you felt unsure about a project at work, while you wondered if you were smart enough for the task, someone else wished they had your talent.
Maybe the last time your children misbehaved in the grocery store, while you felt like the worst parent in the world, another parent marveled at your ability to control your temper.
Forgive the mommy-metaphor, but when the minivan is clean on the outside, no one wonders what it smells like on the inside.
I take my van through the self-service car wash regularly. On any given day, the outside probably (hopefully) looks reasonably clean. Meanwhile, the inside aroma is a unique blend of dirty socks, sweat, horse camp, and a moldy smell of unknown origin. I’m usually so focused on how bad it stinks, I forget to give myself credit for keeping the outside clean.
Do you see what I’m saying? Someone has seen you with your children and been amazed at how accomplished you are as a parent. Someone has seen you at work and marveled at your expertise. Someone has seen you having lunch with a friend and wished friendship was easy for them. Someone has wished for a little bit of what you have and what you are.
Can you see what they see?
Someone has watched you and been impressed. What other people think of you matters because other people think highly of you.