Have you ever heard a statement that you immediately knew would change your life?
That’s how I felt when my then 15-year-old daughter Avery shared her thoughts about a negative comment made about her hair.
She’d been going through some serious challenges at the time, and in an effort to individuate and gain a clearer sense of self, she decided to have her light blonde hair dyed a chestnut brown.
The change to her appearance was dramatic, and she immediately regretted it.
We both agreed that developing a healthy sense of self requires trying things out – and through the risk she took with her hair, she’d learned something about herself. Avery maturely accepted the fact that she would live with the darker hair until the color faded.
At school, close friends were supportive of the new look, and most classmates barely gave it a second glance. My daughter was quite surprised when, about a week into the new look, an adult motioned her over and offered her opinion.
“Honey,” the adult said disappointedly, “You had such pretty, long blonde hair. Why would you do that?”
Avery got into our car right after the inappropriate question was posed. As she relayed the conversation to me, I noticed my child’s calmness, while I, on the other hand, was raging inside.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Avery said matter-of-factly, “But it definitely confirms the five-second rule.”
Not knowing what the five-second rule was, I waited eagerly for Avery to tell me.
“No one should point out a ‘problem’ with someone else’s appearance unless it takes less than five seconds to fix,” she explained.
Avery then gave some examples of five-second fixes:
- Something stuck in your teeth
- A visible booger in your nose
- Toilet paper stuck on your shoe
- A price tag on your clothes
Then she offered examples of things people should never comment on:
- Body size
- Physical changes
- Physical attributes (such as pimples or crooked teeth)
- The way someone talks, laughs, walks
Now when I tell you I had a visceral reaction to this information, that is no exaggeration. Suddenly, I was back in my high school Home Economics class. Over a table filled with fabrics and sewing supplies, girls were comparing their upper arms. I was told by a classmate that I had “big” arms and would never be able to wear certain styles.
From that point on, I denied myself the joy of wearing sleeveless shirts and dresses.
For decades, I heard my classmate’s voice in my head, and it dictated how I felt about that part of my body.
If only my classmate had known the five-second rule and kept her opinion to herself! I angrily thought to myself.
I couldn’t help but think of all the pain, insecurity, and self-doubt that could have been spared just in my high school alone if the five-second rule had been practiced. I knew it would be a lot but an exercise I lead during a recent Soul Shift retreat confirmed just how much pain it could have prevented.
In the morning session, we explored the Practice of Being Kind to Ourselves, and it was time for participants to apply the teachings to their own lives. Spread out in cozy, quiet areas throughout the room, the students engaged in a powerful fill-in-the-blank exercise I’d given them. Through it, a critical statement someone once said to them (that they had internalized) was reframed into a self-compassionate statement that could help them release the critique that was not their truth.
Seeing how engaged participants were in the exercise inspired me to ask if anyone wanted to read their responses out loud.
One by one, I watched in awe as participants vocalized harmful opinions they’d carried for decades. Tears filled my eyes as they replaced these critical labels with healing truths about their core identity and worthiness.
“I don’t want to read this, but I NEED to read this,” one participant said before she stood up and read her responses. You could literally see the heavy burden lift from her shoulders as supportive classmates applauded and wiped away tears.
Seeing the accumulated pain in that human circle (and knowing it could have been spared if more people were aware of the impact of their comments on appearance) spurred me to keep talking about this preventable wounding.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several opportunities to tell people about the five-second rule which is attributed to clinical psychologist Dr. Desta as: “Comment on another person's appearance if and only if they can change it in five seconds or less . . . and if you want to comment on something that someone cannot change in five seconds or less, keep the comment to yourself.”
At a recent reunion with ten of my dearest college friends, I shared some personal challenges that my family encountered this past year, which led to sharing the hair dye disaster and the five-second rule. My college friends are all raising teenagers and young adults, too, so they could empathize with my story and had their own to share.
As we were packing up to go our separate ways, one of them came to thank me.
“Rachel, my most valuable takeaway from this weekend is the five-second rule you shared,” my friend said with sincerity, “—not just in interactions I have with others but also for myself.”
Wow. I thought to myself tearfully. The five-second rule for our precious selves. Wouldn’t that be a life changer?
The following weekend, my family of four would take our first trip as a family of three. With my older daughter at college, Scott and I knew it was the right time to acknowledge the tremendous effort our younger daughter has dedicated to healing and growing despite the epic challenges she has faced along the way.
I knew without a doubt what I would wear for our special evening out – a dress with no sleeves, so I could fully wrap my arms around this human being I can’t imagine life without.
“Let’s take a selfie together,” said the girl who hasn’t wanted to be in pictures for over a year.
And when we looked at the result, we both saw something we’d hoped and prayed for – the light of self-love overpowering the pain that wasn’t ours to carry a minute longer.
Friends, if you would like to experience a weekend of life-changing discoveries and positive shifts with a supportive group of people, please join me November 4-6 in the North Carolina mountains for my final retreat of 2022. There are currently just a handful of rooms left, so if you feel any inclination to come, please register soon. If you have any reservations that you’d like to share with me, please send me a message. It’s amazing what can transpire when two people put their heads together to make something happen.
Here are a few testimonies:
“If you are considering going on this retreat PLEASE GO! Take that step even if you feel a little unsure. You will be so glad you did! Rachel’s teachings, kindness, and humor are like a big hug the whole weekend. I had so many what ifs and felt uncertain going in, but I am so glad I went. Being in community with people who couldn’t be more real, more supportive, more loving was transformational. And so much love and laughter were shared.” -A
“The Soul Shift weekend retreat fueled me far more than anything I have experienced throughout the past five years my life. Not only was I able to connect with myself and nature, but the connectedness I felt with the other participants was unprecedented. Everywhere I turned, there was a welcoming face and encouraging words to support my path. The way things look and feel are different, because I am different. I am more ‘me’ than I have ever been.” -K
Click here to reserve your spot at the Art of Living Retreat Center in the majestic mountains.
And for those who wish to attend but are unable, my 8-session audio journey, SOUL SHIFT SESSIONS, is like walking hand in hand with me through the 8 life-changing practices. Through this soothing audio experience, you are connected to the wisdom, joy, and spark of your inner child which leads you to cultivate peace and purpose in your adult life. Available on Audible, Sounds True, and Amazon.