My crew .... my peeps ... my church family ... we have a tradition of going out every Sunday after church. We try to keep it cheap, and we try to keep it easy.

Today, we strayed from our normal cheap and went across town to Q'Doba. I was wearing a new dress that I got for school not because I looked particularly awesome in it when I tried it on (it's a swingy dress for curvy girls ... not really body defining or body shaping), but because that first week of school, we all end up DROWNING in our own sweat.  I figured it would be light and airy and slightly cooler than anything else I could possibly choose to wear.

It's been oppressively humid here as of late, and I just figured, with the air in church being what it is these days, I might be well served to wear this dress.  And so I did (broke out a new pair of Spanx as well!).

So, there I am, paying for my meal at Q'Doba, and the clerk at the register looks at me and said, in his best Tim Gunn voice, "Well, don't you look stylish today!"

There was a time in my life where I would have done everything in my power to deflect such a compliment. I had an assortment of comebacks that I felt were humorous in nature, but that really just magnified the fact that my self-esteem was in the gutter.

As I've moved toward my middle 40s, and as I've come to terms with my body as it is right this minute, I've come to realize that most people are not, in fact, blowing hot air up my rear end. In fact, they are genuine, and as such, I need to accept the compliment with a gracious, genuine spirit. After all, if I am demanding authenticity in others, shouldn't I be willing to do the same?

And so I did.

"Mmmm, girl!" he continued. "You are rocking that hair!"

I have worked really hard this summer to stop making others own my thoughts. Do you know what I mean by that?

Let me explain.

We've all been there  ... at least, those of us who call ourselves women, have. We walk into a room and immediately begin to compare ourselves with each other.  It has gotten so brazen and out of control, that you can actually WATCH a woman size another one up. It's pitiful to witness.  Now, the rest of us are not unaware of this sizing up that is taking place.  In fact, we begin an inner dialogue that might go something like this:

          "I knew I shouldn't have worn these pants. They are too tight.  I know they are because Ellia just looked at me with those judgey eyes.  She is probably saying, 'She has really packed on the pounds!' Ugh!  I should have worn the more forgiving pants.  Oh great!  Now she's looking at my hair! Why did I cut it?  Everyone else has long hair!  Did she just scowl at my hair?  What is her problem?  She probably thinks I don't like men!"

Anyway, I think you get the point.

At one point or another, we've all been there. We've all been there, and we've allowed our inner voices to put notions in our heads about other people.  We've allowed those inner voices to put words in others' mouths.  We've given the inner voice power ... waaaaay too much power.

I know this was happening, and while, I've done a great job of not letting it rule a lot of my life, there were still portions where that inner voice had power. It weaseled its way in and created chinks in my armor.

I've worked really hard this summer to strip that inner voice of its power. I mean, once you strip the inner voice of its power, it doesn't really have a voice any more, does it?

An older version of myself would have looked at that clerk in Q'Doba today and thought, "You are just hoping I will put something in the tip jar, aren't you?  You don't know what you are talking about, do you?  Oh what? A fat girl can't be stylish?"

Me right now?  I stood a little taller, a little straighter and graciously said, "Well, thank you!"

"You have a fabulous day!" the clerk responded.

"You too!"  And I floated away to the condiment stand, rocking my hair the whole way.

I could be like every one else.  That would be easy, right?  To just be vanilla?  But, as I have told countless fourth grade students when I am teaching them about word choice in their writing, isn't a bowl of ice cream with sprinkles and caramel syrup and whipped cream better than just plain vanilla?


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