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A popular blogger was kindly chastised the other day for not using people-first language. She’d referred to her friend’s cute baby as a Down’s baby (as opposed to a child with Down’s Syndrome) and her comment section lit up. People-first language, please, was the gist of it. My initial thoughts, I confess, were along the lines of, Oh, great. More political correctness to stumble over. More silly this-is-how-we-say-it-now. But after a moment’s consideration I realized, of course.

People-first language, please?

Of course. Yes.

Because people are always people, first.

I’m conscious of it, now. I’m more deliberate in my thinking about you. I try to consider people in a people-first way. I’m more intentional about looking past the easy, first-glance descriptors, past the first impressions. I’m exercising my Jesus-eyes, those eyes that look deep into hearts and souls. So …

The checkout girl at the grocery store is, instead, the woman who woke up early and went to work to earn her dollars by helping me pay for and pack my family’s food, so I sincerely thank her and wish her a good morning.

The homeless man wandering the downtown streets is, instead, the man who, for reasons unknown to me, does not have a place to live, and so I look at him and smile right into his face as I walk by.

The bratty kid in the park is, instead, the child who is having a hard time making friends, so I put a hand on his shoulder when I ask him not to push and I smile at his momma.

I’m trying so hard to negate all those years of first-impression eyesight. I’m trying hard to not see you as the snobby woman or the crippled guy or the blonde girl or the disrespectful teenager or the needy friend. I’m even trying to go beyond seeing you as a perfect mom or the smart girl or the lucky one, because that’s not fair or accurate, either.

I’m trying to be kinder to myself, too. I’m trying to see myself as a person, first. I am trying to look into my own soul and my own heart, and to see what He sees when He calls me Beloved, to see myself as a girl who is smart and beautiful, as a woman who loves to laugh and enjoys a good story and takes courage and tries her best.

We are people first, friends. All of us.

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If I’ve struggled with anything in my life, I’ve struggled to believe these two things: I am smart and I am beautiful.

And even greater is the struggle to resist measuring my smartness and beautifulness against her smartness and beautifulness, which is so destructive because we all are, you know. In different ways and at different stages, but we all are so smart and so beautiful. Not one or the other, not not enough of either.

I wish I’d learned this earlier. I wish I’d spent less time worrying about tummy rolls and hairstyles and grade point averages, and more time laughing and living and having fun. I wish I’d grown up learning how to affirm instead of compare. I wish I’d been better at complimenting others and myself. I wish I’d loved better the other girls, instead of harbouring secret jealousies and fighting the demons of self-perceived inadequacies.

I wish we could all accept that we are both smart and beautiful, all the time. We are smart, you guys. We do remarkable things that take brains. We learn stuff and we apply these learned things in creative ways and we adapt to the changes that come with environment and years and we make important decisions and we do clever, important things every single day.

And we are beautiful. We really, really are. We should take such great pleasure in our loveliness. We were gorgeously made and adorned and yes it’s true, beauty comes from inside. It shines right out through our eyes and it’s in our giggles and we don’t even understand, usually, how adorable we are when we smile or when we stroke the dog or when we beat eggs into frothy glory in the chipped blue bowl that was a wedding gift all those years ago.

I look at women differently than I used to. I used to evaluate you, my friend. Isn’t that sad? I used to try to determine whether you were prettier than I or better educated or more happily married or thinner, and I’d feel better or worse about myself based on how I imagined we stacked up against each other.

I don’t do that anymore. I mean, there are lingering wisps of silliness because of how ingrained these measuring-up thoughts and behaviours have been, but I fight them. I try very hard now to use my Jesus eyes and to see you in all your gracefulness and loveliness and brainy-ness.

And guess what? The world has become a friendlier place.