Purple Glasses, Authenticity and Courage
By Lois Barth
Editor’s Note: Meet Lois Barth at the 3T Renewal Summit. She’s on the panel, “Creating Your What’s Next”.
“Oh no, they’re crushed,” I screamed as my please-don’t-notice-I’m-wearing-glasses, drab-brown eyewear careened into 65 mph traffic on the West Side Highway with the Manhattan skyline in the background. After a quick moment of sticking my neck out the window to get into the next lane, they literally flew off my face. I miraculously managed to recoup them but they were mangled beyond recognition.
Having 90 minutes until my next client, I headed to an eyewear center nearby that I knew had quality lenses and a quick turnaround time. When I bought my please-don’t-notice-I’m wearing-glasses crumbled specs to the counter, the quiet and understated manager, Arthur, shook his head in despair. “We don’t have anything like that, and quite frankly haven’t had for many years. Sorry! Perhaps you want to pick out another type of eyewear,” he said gingerly while ushering me to a display rack of choices and sending the message that the past should stay in the past. Nailed. What irony! For years I have been encouraging clients and groups to be bold in their lives and express themselves. Yet, while I do follow my own advice in so many ways, I was still hiding out in a surprising way: my choice of glasses.
Still determined, I finally found the hiding-out eyewear 2.0; equally nondescript but now more expensive. The guy behind the counter—a sales associate with multiple piercings, gauges and a big shock of fuzzy black hair—looked at my bling-bling, my turquoise and lavender blazer bedazzled with sparkle, and my bigger-than-life personality. When I asked to try on the same old, same old tired eyewear he shook his head no, looked me straight in the eye, tilted his chin upward and said, “Try the purple glasses.”
I gasped, “They’re so out there.” He raised one eyebrow and said, “Exactly. Just like YOU!” And with that, like Cinderella at the Eyeglass Ball, I slipped them on my face. I looked in the mirror and literally took a step back. In an almost panicked voice I winced, “Everyone will know I wear glasses if I get these.”
Watching the intensity of my reaction, it was clear why I was hiding out in my please-don’t-notice-me eyewear. For many years I wore contacts, but as I got older they became uncomfortable. I came to equate wearing glasses with getting older and, silly as it sounds even writing it now, with being less romantically desirable. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had internalized Dorothy Parker’s outdated saying, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Nailed again. I was jarred out of my thoughts when the sales guy let out a big laugh and declared, “Damn straight they’ll know. But not just regular glasses, purple ones!”
Once I walked out the door with my purple frames, I never looked back. I may have felt a tad self-conscious, but I was determined to break my I’m-not-wearing-glasses denial and celebrate my new purple ones with the world. Then something magical happened. People of all ages, men and women, came up to me to compliment my glasses. Many asked where I got them and when I told them the backstory, several confessed their own versions of how they were still hiding out in their lives and backburnering their audacious self.
Each of us has experienced some version of my purple glasses story when we allow misperception and fear to guide our behavior. They are the times in which we hide our true selves; for example, in the workplace when we fail to stand up for what we believe in and advocate for ourselves or in romance when we posture behind a righteous independence hiding our most vulnerable self for fear of getting hurt. In the process, we bury our best selves and attributes and dull our sparkle. Purple glasses moments give us the courage to shine instead. Here are some ways to add more of these moments to our lives.
Listen When Life Is Talking. Life intervenes because that’s its job. Rather than resist uncomfortable experiences, pay attention to the messages these moments are trying to convey. Reflecting on them will wake you up and foster self-growth.
Stretch But Don’t Break. Rather than taking a big leap toward what makes you sparkle, take a series of small and conscious actions that energize and delight you, even if you feel afraid at first.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Live Mediocre Lives. Surround yourself with people who sparkle and help cheer you on to express your authentic gifts. Everyone shines when embraced by a community that encourages them to wear their own version of purple glasses.
Lois Barth is a human development expert, motivational speaker, coach, and thrilled to have delivered her first ‘book child,’ “Courage to SPARKLE: The Audacious Girls’ Guide to Creating a Life that Lights You Up”. She champions women to share their brilliance and to live an authentic life. She speaks at women’s conferences all over the country and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fitness, Weight Watchers, and MSNBC.com to name a few.