Recently, I became obsessed with a certain clothing company. A company that makes beautiful clothes that are flattering on a variety of sizes– a great feat for this day in age. I feel as though I can personally speak on this, as someone who has gained a significant amount of weight. Clothes may come in different sizes, but they are often fit to models…they don’t necessarily flatter all sizes.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about how becoming involved with this led me to a realization.
There’s a social media for sale group for these clothes that is widely popular– there are a lot of good deals! In addition to buying and selling, people also give tips on how to style your clothes and solicit feedback on outfits.
Within the first couple days of joining, a woman posted a picture in clothing asking for feedback on how flattering it looked. At the end of the comment she said, “You can be brutally honest, I can take it.”
A couple days later, I saw another. “Give me your honest opinion. Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, I’m a big girl, I can take it”.
And while the comments/feedback were mainly positive, my heart still broke into a thousand pieces.
It broke for these women, who were brave enough to ask for public opinion, and felt the need to put a disclaimer that it was OK for people to be “brutally honest”.
It then broke for all humans, who have been on the receiving end of mean comments disguised as “brutally honest” feedback or advice. How often does this have to happen to us until we feel like we need to put up that shield and say “I can take it”?
Like most things provoking my thoughts recently, it then just made me pissed.
It got me thinking about perception. Was I overthinking this? I picked it apart. When I think of “brutal honesty”, it is not necessarily negative honesty, because when someone is soliciting my feedback, I empathize. If someone asks me if an outfit is flattering, I will tell them the truth, but with body image, we all need to take “brutal honesty” and put a positive spin on it. Because I don’t think it’s right for women to have to put a disclaimer on soliciting honest feedback with “You can be honest, I can take it”. That’s like saying, you can be as mean to me as you want! My self confidence on the inside will diminish, but I’ll say thanks for being honest with a smile on my face because that’s what women are supposed to do!
No, people. BE brutally honest with one another, but still raise others up. If an outfit isn’t flattering, tell them. But then, give them something positive like, maybe a different style skirt or cut on that shirt would highlight *insert whatever part* gorgeous part of your body.
Same goes for other aspects in our lives. I’m currently in the process of going through typical review as a professor. A senior colleague observed my class where I was trying to work on some aspects of my teaching I have really struggled with. During our conversation, I said “Do you think this part went OK? You can be honest if it didn’t” and then I literally felt my muscles tighten like I was bracing for physical impact. I immediately thought of my reaction to those women saying “it’s ok, i can take it”. I vowed in that moment to work on how I solicited feedback, in a more confident way.
Because, you shouldn’t have to take mean or negatively spirited feedback in any part of your life to warp your self confidence. You shouldn’t have to say “it’s ok, i can take it…” The people you solicit feedback and advice from should still be trying to help you get to where you want to be, EVEN if they are providing constructive criticism on how you can improve.
In the world we live in, it is TERRIFYING to put ourselves out there for scrutiny by anyone. I hope we can all be a more confident and not feel the need to say “You can be honest, I can take it”. On the flip side, I hope we can all be constructive in our feedback to others when they ask, so while we help them improve, we don’t tear down their confidence along the way.
Be constructive, but be kind. It is not that hard.