“Don’t ever stop,” she said. “Don’t ever stop trying to make me see myself the way you see me.”
Not long ago, in the midst of breaking my heart with the rest of America, the hit NBC show “This Is Us” astounded me with the simplest line. I had to hear it more than once. I said it slowly a few times over to make sure I caught it.
And when I did, I cried.
It’s something Kate (an overweight and highly insecure, but incredibly talented daughter) says to Jack (her heroic, heart-throb, doting father). “Don’t ever stop trying to make me see myself the way you see me.” It’s stunning. And I just can’t stop wondering… Is there anything that better captures what a father-daughter relationship ought to be?
Better yet, is there anything that better captures what love ought to be? As a friend? A brother or sister? A daughter or son? A husband or wife?
I have a dad like Jack Pearson. I have vivid memories of being simply adored by him, both as a little girl and as an adult. Because of him, and my dear brothers (and mama and sister, too), I grew up with a confidence that wasn’t phased by the hormones of puberty or the heartbreak of unrequited love (let’s be fair, unrequited) crushes in high school. Nothing in me ever doubted how deeply I was valued, and though the factors to that reality may be multiple, the greatest one is clear:
My daddy never stopped trying to make me see me the way he saw me.
And it changed everything.
Seeing me the way he saw me meant I believed that I was brave and capable. It meant I didn’t question if I was beautiful or valued or worth being treated with respect and honor. It meant I held my head high and shared my opinions boldly and tactfully. It meant I believe I mattered.
Now, I’m not yet a mama, and I will never be a daddy who is larger than life to his little girl. But as a staff member at a local church who spends the majority of time with middle and high school students, I spend the vast majority of my time trying to help teenagers see themselves the way I see them.
Often to the point of tears, questioning passionately in my own mind, “How long until you believe me?! Your grades don’t define you! Your performance on the field… the opinions of the boy… the comments of the mean girls…” Like a broken record, I say the same things over, and over again.
You are beautiful.
You are worth loving.
You are brave.
You are capable.
You are adored and treasured and important and unique.
You matter. You matter. You matter. You matter.
Oh, what I would give for them to see them the way I see them!! Brilliant. Capable. Brave. Creative. World changers. Pure gold.
And so often they don’t believe me. And so I try, and try again. And I genuinely hope I never stop trying to help them see them the way I see them.
So, what does it really mean to love someone? Is it not to help them see them the way you see them? Fully known and fully loved. It’s looking them in eyes, in the midst of the mess, and reminding them that they are seen and deeply loved.
It’s reminding her that she’s brave when she quits her job to pursue her dream. It’s telling him that he matters when he feels overlooked. It’s telling her she’s beautiful when she doesn’t believe it. It’s reminding him he’s capable when he’s ready to quit.
Jack Pearson never stopped trying to make his family see themselves the way he saw them. And all of America adored him because of it. Mourn his loss if you must (is it too late for a spoiler alert?), but as you do, look around at the ones you love. Think of how you see them, and then promise to never stop trying to help them see them the way you see them.
And then think of the ones who love you best. The ones who have never stopped trying to make you see you the way they see you. Might you take a leap and just believe them?
Lean in. Listen close. Choose to see yourself the way they see you. Brave. Capable. Deeply adored and worthy of love.