One more year till 40…
The countdown begins. Living in a superficial country has made me more conscious of my age than I may have been before. I am one year away from 40 and can only think how ten years ago, as I approached 30, I was in a state of perpetual anxiety and inner turmoil. It is amazing what a decade can do to an individual and how much we can learn about ourselves and grow. Being in Lebanon has taught me a great deal about loving myself.
Superficial and Critical.
Since moving to Beirut, the deep-rooted materialism, class-ism, and superficiality has overwhelmed me. Rarely have I met people who begin to ask me of my educational background, interests, or career decision. Instead, they opt to discuss superficial aspects of my body, career, and life. I am far from a size six, so almost always, my weight is referenced, whether directly or indirectly. Verbal diarrhea is on full presentation in a land without conversational filters.
“Why don’t you focus on losing weight and getting in shape?”
“You’re pretty, why don’t you lose some weight? You would look even better.”
“You have free time so you should go to the gym every day and get your body in shape.”
“We don’t carry your size, you may want to check a plus size store.”
In 2017, according to the “International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery,” Lebanon ranks 24th in terms of number of the number of cosmetic surgeries done, annually. There are 18500 aesthetic plastic surgeries performed in Lebanon, every year, with more than 120 surgeries per month. It is known as the “plastic surgery mecca of the Middle East!” Lebanon is the approximate size of Rhode Island, so imagine those numbers per capita and just think how nuts that sounds! The site also state that 15% of touristic spending in Lebanon is plastic surgery with a growth of 20%, annually.
Sadly, these high figures are in a country where the unemployment rate is at 36% and the minimum wage is approximately LBP 675,000 per month, which is equivalent to $450 USD per month. Given these statistics, I am fascinated at how people in Lebanon find the means to have multiple cosmetic surgeries.
Stand up for yourself
Thanks to the blessing of quick wit, I respond to their callousness with sass and smarts, which tends to silence people. You have to stand up for yourself and not let people bring you down. Sadly, some find it easier to elevate themselves while stepping on others, instead of using their talents and skills.
I simply wonder why my, or anyone else’s size for that matter, is so important to a person? Are you impacted in any capacity by my weight or dress size? Are you buying my clothes or having to lift me up a flight of stairs? I mean, really? Why are you so stressed out about my weight or appearance when I am not?
Keep your chin up
I struggle to comprehend the need for people to blurt out insensitive remarks or invite themselves to criticize others when no one was seeking an opinion. Though I have learned to shrug it off, keep my chin up and my emotions at bay, I think of those who are not as comfortable in their skin or identity; people who fight constant battles and are consumed by the bullying and emotional trauma.
My heart hurts thinking of how the classism and superficiality impacts the innocent and I pray for those on the receiving and giving end, hoping those who subscribe to spewing their verbal diarrhea learn how to reign in their malice.
Comfortable in my skin
One thing I am grateful for, as I get through my 39th birthday, are the fabulous skin genes passed on by my mother and grandmother! I dare to say that I look pretty darn good for 39 (though, that is my biased opinion, of course *wink wink*). Thankfully, my mother’s supple and blemish free skin was passed on and I currently enjoy the Botox and filler free life. I pray the day never comes when I succumb to cosmetic maintenance.(My mother and I) (Maternal grandma and I)
Becoming comfortable in your own skin and with where and who you are in life is a difficult journey. It was not easy getting here and I had my share of struggles along the way, but I made it, and I am blessed. Having recovered from many bumps and falls over the last twenty years, I can finally say that I am at ease with the destination I have reached at 39.
Words can hurt more than sticks and stones
Words can hurt and have adverse impacts than what we may intend, which is why it is vital to think about things before you say them. Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of Islam’s holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon them) said, “Do not speak unless your speech is more beautiful than silence.” How often do we think before we speak, especially when sharing criticism?
When I was 30, I had quarreled with someone and that conversation brought much pain and distress, for us both. It was ugly and we both said things that stung and were not easy to forgive. Till this day, I remember, vividly, the look on his face when I launched that verbal grenade, walking away, trying to justify my right to do it while also wishing I could have taken it back.
Asking for forgiveness
Three years later, I sought his forgiveness before I went to Hajj (holy Islamic pilgrimage) in 2013. I reached out to him and asked him to dinner; still weary, yet understanding, he accepted. I had been struggling through some hardship and briefly explained how my life had taken a sharp turn.
(asking God to forgive me in Hajj 2013; Mecca, Saudi Arabia)
A part of my growth process, I began recognizing my past behaviors, and had come to realize how mean I had been to some people in my past.
I sincerely asked him to forgive me for the pain my words caused, knowing they were sharp and had cut him, deeply.
This took a great deal of strength. More than I thought I could ever muster.
But, we both, with tears in our eyes, understood the pain we inflicted on one another and chose to forgive each other and release the burden and pain we carried.
He told me, “Those words you said cut me to the core and I still think about that conversation and the last thing you said to me. I have carried it with me because it was so painful. You don’t realize how easily you can inflict pain and cause damage with your words; how they can cut like a knife.”
I never forgot that admission of his pain. I still remind myself of it so I don’t do it again.
Leaving it behind
But, I did know and I realized that I could never move on in life and better myself if I did not apologize for my mistakes and the words I chose to use. That took courage. That was real growth and wisdom. From that moment, I had promised myself that I would be more cautious with my words and careful with my criticism.
I do not know how long it will take for some people in Lebanon to understand that filters are often necessary when talking about things that can hurt one’s feelings. Perhaps one day, they will get the hint. I hope it is sooner than later.
30’s are different than your 20’s
Getting over these quirks and criticisms would have been hella hard for me in my 20’s. Perhaps this was one of the most important aspects of my growth. Whatever it is, I have channeled my inner Beyoncé and learned to Brush it off and move on if it doesn’t appeal to me or make me happy.
Steve Maraboli said, “Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.”
Wherever I am going, I work to leave the negativity behind me.