A Story On Confidence, Compliments, And Street Harassment
Editor’s Note: Street harassment and compliments from strangers can bring up a messy contradiction of emotions in our hearts. Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring how we as women receive approval from men on the street. I recently wrote, Understanding Why Street Harassment and Cat-calls Scrape At Our Hearts, and Grace wrote a beautiful piece last year about Anger, Cat-calls and Forgiveness. Today, our amazing intern Megan Acheampong shares a story and some pieces of her heart that were revealed this summer. – Lauren
I used to internally bask in a fleeting yet overpowering glory when someone told me I was beautiful. Logically, of course, I realize that being compassionate, smart, and funny (insert other non aesthetic traits here) are the most salient characteristics of what God has instilled in me. As fiercely as one may deny it though, most women take distinct pleasure in this veneered form of flattery as long as it’s done in a respectful way. Living in Europe for 5 months warped my perception of the compliment I used to yearn for. Particularly what stands out in my mind is a time when someone told me I was beautiful, with what I believe were the most genuine intentions, and my usual elation became a shriveled up, futile form of it.
I’d never been, to my extreme luck, victim of a hate crime. I acknowledge that I was a rare sight in the city I was living. I am an African American woman with big, unstraightened hair and I had become so used to being gawked at that it became routine. One uneventful day, instead of the usual stares, two men spouted noises of a monkey in my direction and spit on me. One of the aggressors then came towards me with what looked like a punch. As others watched in awe, a man rushed to my defense, and the two scampered off.
I was livid. I was distraught but mostly I was exhausted. I collapsed on the ground of one of the most grand and historic plazas in Europe and broke into tears. I won’t lie to you, reader.
I felt entirely small and dispensable.
I wallowed and asked Jesus to take care of me. I searched for His embrace and for once I was completely unaware of my surroundings. The man who had defended me rushed to my side with a group of his friends and said, “Please, don’t cry, you are beautiful.”
Although I thanked him for his active kindness, I thought to myself, “what does beauty have to do with it?!” And just like that, the girl who soaked up aesthetic compliments like it was the sun on a wintry day, now found it entirely irrelevant. An insult to injury – that beauty was all I should be concerned about.
The small glory I felt prior to this experience had rushed away and it shattered my world. My beauty in regard to others’ perception suddenly didn’t mean nearly as much to me anymore and the source of my confidence simultaneously vanished.
That night was heartbreaking but it was also pivotal; afterwards, I began rebuilding my heart.
It finally had sunk in that the perception of Christ was supreme.
I now have a constant reminder that I am stunning, and that unwavering strength and encouragement comes from Christ.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s something that I have to work on; it’s an ongoing struggle. I struggle through my insecurity and through my confidence in the light of the perception of man. What’s different now is that when I sense myself placing too many pieces of my value in my attractiveness to other people, I remember that God’s love triumphs over any form of flattery and I am thereby no longer basking in my own fleeting glory but God’s permanent glory.
This is not to say that one can’t enjoy a compliment, it’s just to remind women that the source of those honeyed words is embedded in you. It does not rely upon another’s opinion. You are absolutely stunning. So I ask you, reader, just like I was forced to ask myself, where does your well of confidence spring from?
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