A Lesson from my Reflection

Mirrors are objects that don’t really have much place in my life. I don’t wear make up very often and I like to keep my hair cut in a way that I can just brush it and be done with it.

To be frank, mirrors frighten me a bit. I have this deep seated and irrational fear of what’s going on in a mirror when I’m not looking or when my eyes are closed… weird, I know.

A little over a week ago I went to a hair salon to get my hair trimmed and some of the extra weight of it taken off. Staring into that mirror in front of me for 45 minutes was an uncomfortable experience. Not just because of my irrational fears and paranoia but because I so rarely look in a mirror to know what I look like.

In general, we as people don’t have a realistic concept of what we look like. We only ever see our own faces when looking in a mirror or in a picture.

Pictures, by nature, distort our image. They are supposed to capture it exactly, but in putting something that is three-dimensional onto a two-dimensional surface we distort the perception of the object. That is why they say the camera adds 10 pounds.

Frankly, I feel that while mirrors are a more accurate representation of our image – or at least a better illusion of reality, there can often be a disconnect with our brains and our eyes between what we see in the mirror and the image of ourselves we have in our mind.

In our minds we have images of ourselves that consist of memories of pictures and past times seen in a mirror as well as a thousand other images of different facial expressions we’ve seen on other people. We think of ourselves on one way but then when we see ourselves we might take a moment to see and understand who or what we are seeing.

When I looked at myself in the mirror I did not see who I expected to see. The woman I saw was not the person I feel I am. It wasn’t just that she looked more overweight than I think of myself as being, but she looked more tired, more beaten down. She didn’t look happy. She didn’t look like an artist or a writer, or anyone who particularly enjoys life.

I can’t say I always enjoy life, but I like to think I enjoy it more than the girl in that mirror does.

You can tell a lot about a person when you look into their eyes. When I looked into my own eyes all I saw was tiredness, someone who didn’t know what she was doing there, who didn’t know who she really was anymore. Other than that, I didn’t see a whole lot of emotion in my own eyes. I didn’t recognize myself.

As a child I remember looking into mirrors with wonder. I saw myself happy and joyful, awake and alert. Now I see myself as the opposite.

I’m not saying it’s because of my weight, though that person is not how I imagine myself. It’s the fact that my skin looks pale and sick. My eyes look tired and withdrawn. I see myself in the mirror and I don’t look – alive. So much so that I began to wonder if I really am.

I’ve had both depression and anxiety for a very long time, another contributing factor to my mirror aversion.

Like photographs and mirrors, both of these mental illnesses distort one’s image of themself. They make us see ourselves as less than we actually are. We see ourselves in the worst possible light.

As a Christian this conflicts with what I personally know to be true. I am created in God’s image. I am an adopted daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And I don’t feel like the girl I saw in the mirror was either of those things.

It makes me sound vain, and I really don’t know if it is, but staring into that reflection hurt on many levels. It also opened my eyes a little bit. There is something wrong with me on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. I don’t feel like I look like a child of God on the outside, I think because I have a distorted view of my inside.

A view, not of who I am, but of who I want to be. Fixing my physical health will not fix my spiritual health but fixing my spiritual health won’t necessarily fix my physical health either.

I guess what my reflection is teaching me is that I need to start.

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