When you’ve spent any amount of time attempting to vacuum post-church craft project chaos, you don’t become a fan of glitter.
It’s like the comedian Demetri Martin said, “Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies.”
Yet, as I was looking at a recently Instagrammed picture of glitter Toms, I felt envious. I felt a chill of sadness. I actually started crying.
I am a crier. I see someone else cry, and I am done. I am crying with them. People sympathy yawn, I sympathy cry. But it’s one thing to cry during the On the Road segment of CBS News and it’s another thing to cry looking at a picture of gold glitter Toms.
If this were a movie instead of a blog post, this would be the moment the flashback begins. The screen fades, and an actor playing a younger version of me (though she would undoubtedly look nothing like younger me) would appear. Actually, it would more likely just be me with shorter hair because this was only three years ago. Still, the screen would fade.
I would be having a conversation with the guy I was dating then. He had recently lost his pair of black Toms in a river. Having recently spent a week working at an event, I spent a week watching a pretty volunteer with these black glitter Toms. So, I told him I had been wanting to buy a pair of Toms. Since I am the generator of all good-ideas, I suggested instead of buying ourselves Toms, we would buy each other a pair.
It was easy to buy for him: he just wanted a new black pair. He didn’t want me to tell him what I wanted. Instead he would pick out a pair for me.
I knew this would be so much fun. Not only was I getting new shoes, I was getting a surprise new pair of shoes. In hindsight, I should have recognized that I never liked surprises. However, nothing could keep the excitement from building.
I know it would be incredibly exciting to see what he found in the store than reminded him of me. This wasn’t just a great idea, this is a life-defining moment where I can forever bask in all my brilliant idea glory each time I wear these shoes, I thought. As the shoe-exchange visit drew closer, I was so happy.
Let’s be real: I was secretly hoping for black glitter Toms.
Giddy with all the excitement of a child on Christmas (I was so giddy I can’t even think of a better cliché), I opened the shoe box.
My smile dropped, but I plastered it back on. (I’ve always been taught to be a gracious receiver of gifts.)
Inside the shoebox was a pair of Natural Canvas Classic Toms.
What color even is “natural”?! Let me tell you: it’s the absence of color. I remember an elementary school lunchtime argument of whether or not white was a color. I was pro-white. I pointed to a white shirt, asking, “What color is this?” They responded white, and in that moment, I knew I could become a lawyer. But natural? Natural is not a color. I could never imagine myself being such a good lawyer as to be pro-natural.
“Natural” is good when looking for healthy-eating options, but natural is not good when you are putting the full weight of how someone else sees you in a pair of shoes. This was way worse than any Buzzfeed quiz (which, by the way, how did eight random questions determine that the food I am most like is sushi?).
They definitely weren’t glitter, they weren’t even burlap (which at least drives home the “hipster” image). Natural does not scream, “I have personality.” In fact, they don’t scream anything. If they were to speak, they would mumble and not have a favorite food because they would be too blah about everything. Natural would be a less-pretty Julia Roberts circa Runaway Bride and not have a favorite way to eat eggs.
He looked at me, asked me if I liked them. Smile still in place, I told him yes, they were great. I then told him I was grateful and thankful. He then flung his shoes off and put the Toms on. I reluctantly tried my new Toms on as well.
But in my head, I could not stop thinking:
THIS IS THE PAIR OF SHOES THAT REMINDED HIM OF ME? SHOES THAT ARE THE ABSENCE OF ALL COLOR AND PERSONALITY?
Don’t get me wrong, the whole message of Toms is to provide shoes for those who do not have any. So it feels terrible to complain. But this was about more than the shoes.
This resentment toward my pair of Toms was never about the shoes, it was all about my self-esteem.
I wanted to be seen as fun, as the kind of person who would wear glitter Toms. I wanted to be exciting and beautiful. I felt like neither of those things wearing those shoes.
We all have this image of our ideal self. It’s the image we hold of the person we think we should be or the person we wish we will be someday. Then we develop low self-esteem when our actual self does not align with our ideal self. We feel disappointed and sad.
As I reflect on my life, I’ve always felt I have not measured up to my ideal self. I have always wanted to be the glitter Toms person, but I’ve always been the natural-colored canvas Toms.
Brené Brown hits the nail on the head in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead:
“When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.”
Each day I come home feeling exhausted and disappointed in myself for not being impressive enough, I bite into the shameful lie that I am not good enough. The shame gremlins whisper in my ear, and I go to bed with a pint of ice cream and mind-numbing episodes on Netflix. That’s how I find myself in a never-ending shame spiral.
Brené Brown writes:
“If we are going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of ‘what we’re supposed to be’ is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”
I remember meeting with one of my professors for counseling. He asked me, “What would it take for you to realize that you are loveable?”
I told him that I suppose it would take me having to say it to myself over and over again.
I have to silence the inner critic every day. I think we all do.
Because the question wasn’t what can you do to make yourself loveable. The question was how can you accept that you are loveable as you are, right now. You are loveable no matter how many items on your to-do list remain uncrossed, you are loveable when you don’t wear makeup, you are loveable even in those ordinary Toms.
Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (are you taking the hint yet that I recommend this book?):
“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.“