The other day my husband and I were getting ready to go out, and he complemented me on a few things he liked about me. I joked, “Phenomenal woman, that’s me.” He started laughing, but I could tell he didn’t know what I was talking about. Then I said, “stop right there!” and immediately pulled out a book of poetry by Maya Angelou, and read him her fabulous poem, “Phenomenal Woman.”
This poem is one of my favorites of all time. It has a spirit that any woman can relate to, but one reason I like it is that it speaks to that indefinable quality some women have. There are women that are so focused on their size. They talk about how thin they are or how thin they want to be. As if that defines a woman! I relate to women who find their beauty later in life, who realize how fabulous they are even if they weren’t told so growing up. These lines from “Phenomenal Woman,” have deep meaning for me:
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
The entire poem, along with several others by Maya Angelou, were featured in the film Poetic Justice. I loved this film for many reasons.
When I was growing up, everyone focused on the physical parts of me. I needed to be thinner, to not bite my nails, to fix my hair, to wear makeup….and on and on. Over the years, I learned that this ideal of beauty was lacking. You can have a thin woman with such a large ego that she becomes ugly. Or one with perfect hair and an imperfect attitude about life. You can have a physically beautiful woman who is just so very unattractive when you get to know her.
To me, self-esteem is the quiet realization that you are beautiful for your unique gifts. You don’t need to shout it out. You don’t need to take away from someone else’s moment to shine. You don’t need look down your nose at anyone else. You are beautiful, and phenomenal, just by being who you are. You don’t need to shove it down anyone’s throat or scream it from the rooftops. People will see the phenomenal spirit in you by your daily walk.
I’m a woman
And that’s you as well!
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