A few years back I was asked to teach a Relief Society lesson on the topic of self worth. One of the references on which I was to base the lesson was a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, from October 2005 General Conference (url reference below). I was particularly struck by his plea to be accepting of ourselves physically, and not to obsess over the images we see in the media that create unrealistic expectations. How could I get the women who heard my lesson to see themselves differently and really appreciate themselves for who they are?
It got me thinking . . .
And then an idea struck . . .
Say what you will about romance novels (I've heard most of it already), but the genre exists for a reason. As Robert Frost once said, "Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." What would it be like if I could make the women feel like they were the heroine of a romance novel—and have someone gaze at them adoringly and wax poetic about them?
So that's exactly what I did. I wrote a line or two of romantic description about every single woman who would be there. I told the women to imagine they were the heroines of a romance, descending a grand staircase, and the hero was waiting at the bottom, really seeing them for the first time. The descriptions included references to queenly red locks that spoke of fire and passion, elfin features full of joy and mischief, the deep, soft eyes of a doe, and a "smile [that] carried the sweetness of hearth and home, with turquoise eyes that held the depths of the Caribbean within them." I tried to make them sound extra romantic.
I read each one and had the women guess who it was describing. I was surprised to discover how many of the specific descriptions I'd written applied to more than one woman!
The exercise was just supposed to be a simple object lesson, with the hope that the women would begin to see themselves differently. I was totally unprepared for the results. The reaction after class was extraordinary. I got lots of comments—most of them emotional reactions to what they'd heard about themselves and each other. Afterwards, one woman asked me if I'd noticed D (the SEVENTY-year-old with the soft eyes of a doe), when I'd said it was a description of her. "She sat up straight in her chair like she was a new woman for the rest of the lesson."
The woman with Caribbean eyes came up to me afterward, crying, because she'd never thought of herself like that before.
The other surprising result was that, to this day, I still look at D and am drawn to her beautiful brown doe eyes first. I see C and immediately think of the Caribbean. M will always be the mischievous elfin sprite to me (I found out later she's part Irish).
I hope their perspective of themselves changed that day and that they recognize the beauty found in their uniqueness. I know my perspective of them did.