“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mirror, mirror on the wall… find the nearest mirror. Look. Keep looking for 3 minutes. Write about what you see.
I felt the timing was right to dig out this prompt. My internet tanked in the middle of the Trust 30 Challenge, so I didn’t get to this in June. But now…it seems right.
A doctoral student at UCLA, who is preparing for her wedding in October, started a blog called Mirror, Mirror…OFF the Wall. After spending so much time gazing into mirrors as she tried on gowns, and not liking how she felt afterward, she decided to avoid mirrors and her reflection all together…for a year. This started back in March and will continue until next March. She wrote, in part:
“In those moments I felt like the worst version of myself – insecure, indecisive, vain…More importantly, I had lost both time and emotional energy in the process. The dress shopping had put me over the edge, and with the requisite wedding make-up and hair trials, there would be more vanity to come. Something had to give. It was time to take a serious look in the mirror – or was it?”
My gut reaction to the news coverage this received was, “What a crazy, extreme reaction! She’s a beautiful woman. Why is she avoiding looking at herself?”
But once I read her intentions, and understood where she was coming from…well, I still think it’s kind of extreme. I understand her intent and reasoning, and in her academic life, she studies the relationship between beauty and inequality. So it’s like using yourself as an experiment.
I’ve surrendered access to technology and clocks before with joy. Never missed them. At Lent, I gave up my obsessive need for answers…and was much better for it. So I can appreciate her motivation and intention behind this test.
So when I found the above Trust 30 prompt from Esther Poyer, I decided to take the challenge…to really, truly look at myself. I’ve spent decades disliking myself with intensity because I didn’t look like the popular girl next to me in class…because somewhere in my psyche “tall” morphed into “fat”…
…and because I insisted on focusing on how I didn’t look, what I didn’t have, and what I couldn’t do, rather that the opposite. Mirrors were a necessity for blow-drying my hair and applying mascara. That didn’t mean I liked them.
Even as recently as last year, I sometimes felt a lump in my throat when I checked my reflection. I saw myself and wanted to cry in frustration. I disliked the way I looked, the way my clothes fit, the way my hair fell. And I kept it to myself. I’m embarrassed to say that there were days I didn’t want to leave the house because I saw every flaw in vivid detail. I’ve learned since that the root cause of the insecurity had other sources, and I was taking it out on my appearance.
Recently, I compared two sets of photos of myself, taken five years apart. There were marked differences. The 2006 me looked good. The 2011 me looked good…and happy. Because she was being more true to herself and appreciated herself “as is.” She didn’t just look happy – she WAS happy.
What I see…and what I know to be true…are not the same things.
When I look in the mirror, I see a vessel. A vessel with blue eyes, crow’s feet, and manic skin that can’t decide if it’s 16 or 50 – prone to breakouts and wrinkles at the same time. The vessel has squared shoulders and a straight bearing, a strong spine that bears much. It’s spent a good amount of time in the sun recently, and it glows. The vessel’s roots are starting to show, and it’s time for another appointment with Clairol 110. But red or silver, there’s a crazy amount of curl that persists despite previous efforts to straighten it. And I rather like it now.
Looking deeper, harder, more intently…past the surface…the vessel contains a soul put here for a reason.
The vessel is a receptacle for knowledge, talents, gifts, and abilities. It bundles together compassion, wisdom, courage, faith, love, curiosity, laughter, and tears. It’s powered by spirit, motivated by a need for happiness, and capable of great good. It writes, breathes, dances, embraces, and thinks.
She is fearfully and wonderfully made. Imperfect, but for a perfect purpose.
Look in your mirror. Fearlessly. Defiantly. What do you see?