What “three little words” mean the most to you? I’ve seen this debated before, both in person and in writing: “I love you” vs “You’ve lost weight.” For some reason, it’s been on my mind lately. What are the three magic words you would most like to hear?
“You’ve Lost Weight”
“I Love You”
“I Am Sorry”
“You Look Happy”
“You Look Beautiful”
I asked friends what they thought about some of these, and if it mattered who told them which one. One friend said, “I love you means the most to me, because I don’t like commenting on people’s weight. I’d rather tell someone ‘You look great!’ I don’t think it matters who says it.”
Another said, “I’d rather hear ‘I love you,’ if it came from the guy I’m seeing because if he told me ‘you’ve lost weight,’ it would make me think that he’d been thinking that I needed to, without wanting to say anything to me.”
Always the argumentative one, I pressed further. Doesn’t it matter less if a friend (say…me?) told you they loved you? Shouldn’t all your friends love and support you? If not, what value do they add to your life? Why keep them around? Couldn’t you be on cloud nine for the entire day if someone you had a crush on, or someone you were waiting and hoping to hear say I love you to you finally did? Wouldn’t that stay in your head all day? Wouldn’t you be saying it to yourself in his exact voice over and over again? Looking forward to hearing it again? Don’t you love being told that you’ve lost weight? Wouldn’t it make you happiest to hear a friend tell you that? Is weight something we’ll all always think about in our own heads, often bemoaning eating that tiny sliver of cake? Will you even believe the words when you hear them, anyways? Would you believe it more from certain people in your life over others? Wouldn’t you dismiss some of the words from certain people?
For me, the “three little words” that mean the most are “You look happy.” Because for so long, I didn’t. Because for so long, I wasn’t. I tried a lot of different things (most of the time with the same results) that I thought would make me happy. Telling myself ‘this next drink will make you happy,’ or ‘one more line, then you’ll be happy,’ or ‘THIS guy! HE will make you happy,’ or ‘take that trip. That is SURE to make you happy.’ It didn’t. They didn’t. He certainly didn’t. Nothing worked. When is enough, enough? There was never enough. Of anything out there that would make me happy. I yearned and ached to be happy so much and seemingly for so long, that finally I resigned myself to believing the lie I repeated to myself, “You will never be happy again. And that is just FINE.”
I guess it helps that I don’t really care what you think I look like. While this was true during my most unhappy of times, as I was so self-absorbed that I wasn’t caring about what I thought, let alone even being capable of realizing I was sharing the world with other people with feelings and thoughts of their own, it’s especially true once I’m happy and finally, after 30 some odd years, fully comfortable in my own skin. Maybe the question isn’t “what three little words” mean the most to you, but rather, do you look for validation outside of yourself, or are YOU enough?
Slowly after a lot of pain and time alone with myself, I have learned that happiness for me had to come from within myself. Of course, I’ll always be happy to hear “you look beautiful” but I will look beautiful if I’m happy. If I’m happy, I’ll look my best and treat others better than when I’m unhappy. I’ll want to take care of myself more, and that might mean losing weight, or simply putting things into my body that I know will help me feel my best. I’ll shower. I’ll smile. I’ll realize that I do inhabit a world with other people and I will think of them before I think of myself. I’ll be more thoughtful. I’ll help. I’ll care. I’ll know that I am enough.
An avid reader and self-described music snob, I often think in terms of quotes or lines from books or poems I have read, or song lyrics I have heard, and one poem, my favorite poem, comes to mind while thinking about this topic.
In “After A While,” by Veronica Shoffstall, it reads:
…so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
“The nicest thing about being happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again.”
-Kiss of the Spider Woman.
You can read more from Lucy Rendler-Kaplan on her blog.