The Big Butt Method For A Better You

“I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”~from the song Man in the Mirror, Micahel Jackson

So you've probably heard this joke before. A portly wife is getting dressed to go out to dinner with her husband and says to him, “Honey, do these pants make my butt look big?” The soon-to-be excommunicated husband replies, “It's not the pants.”

Another version of this “ugly truth” scenario is the fable of The Emperor's New Clothes. The Emperor is deceived by his tailors into believing he is wearing beautiful new garments when in truth he is wearing nothing but his underwear. When he parades in the streets in front of his kingdom in his invisible new clothes, only a small child is authentic enough to shout out what everyone else is thinking — “The Emperor is in his underwear!”

Sometimes  self awareness is forced upon us when someone else has the courage or the audacity to point out our own “big butts” or nakedness. This can be a painful, but pivotal moment in life.

When we try to hide our big butts (metaphorically speaking) under ill-fitting pants, or  delude ourselves into believing we appear one way when everyone around us sees our nakedness, we are setting ourselves up for that awful moment when the truth is revealed for the world to see.

The truth has a sneaky way of finding its way into the light of day.

For some issues in life, we are more like the portly wife. We know we have a big butt, but we try everything to cover it up and not deal with it. Other times, we are like the emperor, deluding ourselves into really believing we are someone when we really are not that person at all.

Then the moment comes when someone pulls back the curtain.

If we are lucky, it comes in the form of a kind and loving conversation in which our big butts or nakedness are gently pointed out. More often than not, it is the result of an unexpected attack in the heat of an argument, or an off-the-cuff  remark from someone who has bypassed the filter between brain and mouth. You are blindsided and cut to the quick.

Of course our first reaction is to defend, deny, and obfuscate. We feel indignant and hurt. If we recognize a kernel of truth in the remarks, then we quickly line up excuses like toy soldiers to defend our ego.

I don't know about you, but I have stewed for days over one of these remarks, playing out all sorts of scenarios in my head to give that person a piece of my mind. Sometimes I've actually done it, whipping off a knee-jerk email or phone call in the heat of the moment. I'm sure you can guess where that led.

No matter how self aware we may be, all of us have our “big butts” and naked moments.

And as painful as it is for someone to hold a mirror up to these, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to turn around and look square into that mirror at our true selves. Sometimes we may see that we are not so bad after all. And sometimes we may finally recognize and accept areas where we need to grow and change.

It has taken me many years to learn how to handle these dreaded moments. But with some thoughtfulness and preparation before a mirror is held up to you, you can turn these moments into an opportunity for self-awareness and growth.

Here's my “Big Butt Method” for doing just that:

  • If the remarks are coming from loving kindness from a person you respect, then sit down and listen. Try your best not to deny or defend (this is so hard), just listen. Ask questions if you need clarity about something.
  • Thank the person who is telling you. Believe it or not, it can be just as hard to muster the courage to point out someone's flaws as it is to hear them. Only someone who really cares about you is willing to put themselves out on a limb to say something to you in a kind way. Even if initially you don't agree with them, thank them for caring enough to make the effort.
  • Sometimes snarky is disguised with niceness. There are “well-meaning” people who feel obligated to point out your flaws, not so much because they love you, but because it makes them feel better about themselves. Or because they think they know best. It is much harder to hear the truth from this person, but before you are snarky right back at them, take a deep breath, hear their words, and remove yourself from the situation before it gets ugly.
  • The most common scenario is an argument with a spouse or loved one. A fight ensues, and they go for the jugular, shouting out your most vulnerable weak spots as they claw their way to the winner's circle. We have all been the recipient and the shouter in these situations. And there are no winners. Just a whole lot of hurt. The only salvation is to retreat to separate corners until things calm down.
  • In each of these situations, it is imperative to sit on it for a while. Even when someone speaks to you from a loving heart, you will still feel wounded and defensive. That's human nature. It's our ego squealing in pain. So step back as quickly as possible, without making remarks and excuses, and reflect on what the person had to say.
  • Accept that there is possibly some truth in even the cruelest words. Whether spoken in love or anger, you might be hearing something important for your growth. Don't dismiss the words right off the bat. Acknowledge the possibility of some truth in them.
  • When you feel calm and more centered, assess the situation. Look at your life and interactions with others now and in the past. Have you heard these remarks before? Is this an ongoing theme in your life? Is it holding you back or compromising your relationships, personal growth, or lifestyle in some way?  Look at people around you. Do they have this issue? Is it offensive to you? Sometimes just awareness is all it takes to begin to change.
  • Reach out to others whom you respect and who love you. Tell them about the conversation and the context (loving vs. cruel or snarky). Ask them if they believe it is something you need to address, correct, or work to change. This is hard to do, but knowing the truth is essential to growth. Your “big butt” will be revealed again if you don't take care of it now. Be brave enough to seek the truth.
  • Once you have an understanding of the truth, strive to grow and change. You may discover that the truth will set you free. In fact, the truth may not be as bad as it first appeared. Once you accept your flaws and challenges, you are opening doors to amazing, life changing growth. Learn ways to change the problem or behavior. Read, study, practice, ask for help if you need it.
  • If possible, go back to the mirror-holder and let them know what you've learned. This is very hard too, but it closes the circle. If it is someone you love and who loves you, this can be enormously healing and restorative. They may be more inclined to accept loving mirrors from you in the future. If it came from someone snarky, you will disarm and amaze them by saying a simple “thank you” for pointing out what you need to hear. Perhaps they will surprise you and apologize for their own bad behavior.

Hearing the truth about your “big butt” or invisible garments is never pleasant. As much as we know we aren't perfect, we don't want that pointed out to us. But in many cases, it can be a gift. Prepare your mindset in advance to view these situations as opportunities for growth. When they happen, you will be better able to accept the gift and use it for your own happiness and growth.

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Comments

  1. Leah McClellan says:

    Great idea, Barrie! I have a couple of “big butts” (so to speak!) I’m working on, and I probably have more I don’t know about. There have been a couple of times that I told someone about a “fault” (chronic bad breath, in one case), and it was really hard, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But I told him (carefully, kindly, gently) because I know I would want a friend to tell me. It went well; he went to the dentist, and it turned out he had a sinus infection that was causing it.

    Then there are times people tell us stuff, but it’s more about their perception or misunderstanding, and then it takes a lot of back and forth to figure it out and what, exactly it is and if we can take responsibility for it and make some changes. An old boyfriend years ago, for example, had the idea I thought I must be better than him and I was acting “stuck up” because I bought a new car and was showing off. My buying a (very low budget!) brand new car had nothing to do with him, and I never thought of it that way–I just needed a car since my old one died. What I learned was that we really weren’t a good match 🙂 I guess that comes under “snarky.”

    Good tips!

    • Hi Leah,
      That must have been hard to tell your friend about his breath, but I’m sure he (and all of his other friends!) appreciated it in the long run. I agree that sometimes people tell us about one of “our” problems, when in reality, it is something they are dealing with. Even these situations are opportunities for growth, as you learned from the boyfriend who wasn’t really a good match. Not snarky, just the truth that set you free!

  2. Amazing, amazing post. This is what I needed tonight. Thank you so much!!!

  3. Tess The Bold Life says:

    Barrie,
    Your creativity is mind blowing. When my four dauhters were all under six years old my brother-in-law stopped over unannounced on a Saturday morning. After watching my morning circus act with the girls he literally told me, “You’re crazy and you need help.” As mad as I was at that moment, I knew he was right, “I felt crazy and my life was out of control.” I knew I was doing my best and at the same time I knew my best wasn’t good enough. I asked a workshop leader at our church the following Sunday if she knew a good therapist…the rest is history;)

    In our heart we always know when others are right, even if we don’t like the way we’re told. If we’re willing to listen to our heart change can be immediate and and rapid. I gathered my courage that day and began to change and haven’t stopped yet.
    Because every once in a while my butt looks too big;)

    • Hi Tess,
      I’ll give you a complete pass for being crazy with 4 daughters under six! If you weren’t crazy dealing with them, then you’d really be crazy. 🙂 Truly, I’m glad that moment led to something so life changing for you. I think you have one of the smallest butts around!

  4. I can handle comments from my daughter better than from anyone else. She tries to be fair and only point out something that can really be changed or at least looked at in a new light. For example, when I kept complaining I didn’t have any clothes (we didn’t have much money for them but still) she let me know she’d heard enough because I always had just enough for a new art supply. I didn’t have enough for art supplies mind you, but when given a choice I always opted for them first. Her comment let me know where my heart lies and we joke about her comment often.

    However, the most hurtful comments come from one of my older sisters and my husband. My sister I learned long ago, only feels good when she can feel like everyone else isn’t as good, well off, pretty, has better kids and on and on so I dismiss what she says mostly. My husband – well, he hurts my feelings a lot. He’s a lot like my sister but he has learned my weaknesses I guess and cuts me to the quick too, too often. He isn’t willing to change and I am not willing to divorce him (a bit late since we’ve been married 38 years already) but I think about it at times when it just seems like more than I can handle. So, I use it to help me by making art and there we are, right back to my heart and whats so important to me.

    • Hi Timaree,
      People who lash out at others, particularly when they aren’t being provoked, generally are revealing their own “big butts.” If someone feels the need to put you down to make themselves feel big, then perhaps the lesson for you is to stand up for yourself and calmly, firmly state that you won’t listen to unkind, destructive comments. Maybe the gift in this for you is the opportunity to get stronger. 🙂

  5. My wife, JoAnn, does a very good job of keeping me honest, as Anderson Cooper would say.

    It’s been 14 years since I came down to this wild and beautiful country called America from British Columbia to marry JoAnn. And during this time, she has been helpful to me in a lot of ways. For instance, teaching me to curb my English ways and be more American — that is, say what I want to say directly. No beating around the bush any more. So I agree. Other people can be very helpful to us in this adventure we call life.

    Thankyou for your interesting and helpful post.

    • Hi Christopher,
      It sounds like JoAnn is good for you! And I’m sure you’ve offered her some loving lessons as well. That kind of mature support and authenticity makes for a strong marriage. Directness has its place, but sometimes well-timed English reserve is exactly what’s needed. So don’t lose that quality entirely. 🙂

  6. Great article Barrie…speaks to me of truth! And being able to handle the truth.

    There is a common theme that runs through the lives of those whom I would call wise, and that is that they are always seeking to understand.

    They are always keen to gain some fresh insight in whatever they may be researching into at the time. They dig deep, and they dig thoroughly. They’re always willing to look at things from another angle, or from another point of view.

    They also seek to see the best in others, and are always looking for the why behind the how. They shun gossip, and seek the truth, and they are fresh in their outlook, not stale, from stuck-in-the-mud and opinionated viewpoints.

    So you seek to be wise?

    • Hi Peter,
      That’s beautifully stated. I don’t know if I’m consciously seeking to be wise, but I am seeking. Mostly out of profound curiosity and interest in relating and learning.

  7. Hi Barrie,
    The title drew me in..I have a big butt *grin*..
    There was a time in life I was living not in a less than peace filled manner because I was accepting less than in my life. Quite simply I was in an abusive relationship that almost killed me. All of my friends helped me to carry it. Only one person had courage to say “I love you, you are killing yourself, it hurts me to watch, so I am no longer helping you. When you stop compromising I will be there”. What???!!
    That is the day my life changed..as Tess says the rest is history. How many times do we try to cram into something that no longer fits and our loved ones help hem and sew..when someone needs to step up and say please get new clothes:) Thank you for your article!

    • Hi Joy,
      Thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad someone had the courage to let you know how they felt, and that you had the courage to accept the truth. That truly was a life-changing and life-saving moment for you. I hope you have found someone who values and supports you in only kind and loving ways.

  8. Fantastic post, Barrie!

    I think that assessing the situation is huge–especially if it’s something that’s repeatedly come up in your life. We tend to re-create what is “comfortable,” but what is comfortable may have been an unhealthy upbringing or situation. If we keep re-creating a hurtful situation, it’s a clue that there’s something to learn there.

    BTW, I’ve had comments my entire life about my big butt LOL! Not much I can do about it–some things are genetic 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Paul,
      Yes, sometimes we aren’t aware of bad behaviors because they seem normal to us. Maybe from our upbringing or early learning. You don’t know what you don’t know! Aren’t you Latin Paul? I know women in the States that pay good money for a Latin butt! 🙂

  9. Barrie,
    This was a terrific article. I don’t think we focus enough on our “big butts.” It can be so painful, as you point out, when someone points out our flaws, especially if it’s someone we trust and love. We feel so hurt, but again as you say in the post – we should take it in the spirit it was meant and not allow our buttons to be pressed. I do think a huge sign that you’ve grown is the ability to not “go off” when those buttons are pressed. I know I’ve grown in some areas and in others -not so much and I’m still a work in progress. Being around my mother so much now that my father is gone is a constant test of how well I’m able to remain calm and poised while my buttons are being played like a piano!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Angela,
      Boy, I should have used the “push your buttons” phrase in my post. What a great play on “butt” — push your butt-ons! When someone pushes your big butt-ons, it is like someone grabbing your butt in public. It’s humiliating and maddening. But it’s revealing too. Yes, mother’s have a great way of pushing those buttons!

  10. Hi Barrie,

    Your article rings loud and clear. I’m going through a divorce and on top of that am dealing with another relationship ending. Instead of focusing on the men in my life and why they can’t give me what I deserve, I’ve looked at myself (in that metaphorical mirror) and asked myself why am I choosing the men I choose. Although I do realise that these men have to take accountability for their behaviour, I too, I have to take accountability for mine. And that “big butt” is hard to look at, but as you say, seeing it helps you grow and find true happiness. Thanks for the insight.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is very brave of you Rose. It’s hard enough going through the break up of a marriage, but facing your own part in it is really difficult. I applaud you for seizing the opportunity to look at yourself so that you can find a wonderful relationship in the future.

  11. Wonderful post! Didn’t know that Michael Jackson song, increases my respect for him. Great insights and suggestions. I admit to hiding many things, from someone with a big butt myself. And then the unknowns, I think of the Johari Window model: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window Thank you for an extremely helpful blog post.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Garrett,
      I hope it’s a metaphorical big butt! 🙂 I don’t know about the Johari Window model. Must go check it out! Thank you for commenting.

  12. This is so true. I have a few different ways I handle these truths… If it’s a kind, loving comment – I’ll consider it seriously, ask for feedback from that person and others, and try to address the situation. I give myself permission to feel a little hurt and embarrassed, but then I remind myself that everyone has their own “big butt”
    If it’s a critical, negative person who needs to put people down for their own self-esteem, I consider the source. If its something I’ve wondered about, I’ll check in with a trusted person. If its something that’s just mean spirited and intended to make me feel bad – I’ll add some more distance to the relationship.
    Finally, If it’s something that I’m not sure the intention, I’ll give myself a little space and run it past a trusted person to make sure I’m not misinterpreting.
    Thanks so much for another great post!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Katie,
      Wow — you could have written this post! That’s wonderful that you have such a great system. It took me a long time to get out of the defensive, pouting stage. Once I embraced my imperfections and admitted that I will always have them, it became a lot easier to accept criticism from someone else. But it still stings. 🙂