If your ego needs any adjusting -- whether it be a puncture or a boost -- there's only one solution I know that is instantaneous and failsafe: children.
There is no purer form of honesty that what leaks uncensored from the mouths of babes.
God bless them.
And curse them at the same time.
Children have no qualms telling you when you're in need of a breath mint (and they don't say it quite that nicely). They're the first to mention that you have food in your teeth or to point out webbed feet, odd birthmarks or a few extra pounds.
The really great thing about kids is that they usually do this very loudly and in a very public place.
It's difficult to feel sorry for the poor, elderly gentleman who's trying to explain why there's hair growing out of his nose when you're busy looking for the nearest bottomless pit and preparing to leap.
I didn't feel like my ego was in need of any adjustment, but that didn't stop my 5-year-old daughter, Nikki, from mentioning, "You have a big butt, Mom."
Yeah, I'm not going into that pit alone.
There is compensation. It doesn't matter what kind of dress I put on -- it could be the ugliest in the world and three sizes too big -- and my daughters tell me, "You look just like a princess, Mom."
A few days ago, I decided to join 6-year-old Katie for lunch at her school, although I did check the menu before committing myself).
Here's my advice to anyone who's feeling a little blue and insecure: Go have lunch at an elementary school.
Every child in Katie's class wanted to sit by me. They all wanted to tell me what their favorite color was, what Santa was bringing them for Christmas and how tasty carrots dipped in catsup are (I wanted to make a good impression, but even I couldn't stomach that).
I opened everyone's milk and peeled back the wrapper on half a dozen fruit roll-ups.
In an effort to entertain, I started the game of telephone by whispering to my small tablemate "Santa Claus is coming in seven days and he's bringing everyone a piece of coal."
Halfway around, the mute buzz of conversation turned to an excited roar. I looked up to see that last person who'd heard the secret had heard, "Santa's coming after school!"
Oops. Yeah, that's how rumors get started.
No one asked my name. I was simply "Katie's mom," except to one well-mannered and charming girl who kept calling me "ma'am."
One girl asked if I was staying for recess. I thought about it and decided I could probably stay for a game or two.
The instant I said "yes," the girl turned to my daughter and said "You want to play with us today, Katie?"
Her ploy was awfully obvious, but as it was for me, I didn't say anything.
Out the door, several children made a grab for my hand, those who weren't part of the lucky two grabbed onto my coat.
We ran, we danced, we made conga line and we played Simon Says.
And it wasn't long before I was fielding requests for a second appearance.
I have yet to return, but know that I will, regardless of what's on the menu (OK, maybe not "regardless," but it might not play as big a role in my decision).
The thing is, that 30 minutes kept me warm for the entire day and days later, just the thought still brings a smile to my face.
A half-hour session that's guaranteed to make you glow is a bargain at any price. I paid $3 and got a corn dog.