“Feel good about who you see in the mirror, not what you see.” – Norm Werner
I’ve posted recently about topics that may not have appealed to everyone – autism and depression. The posts were more about being aware that a so-called “normal” person has no good frame of reference through which to view the world as a person living with either of those conditions sees it and thus we should strive instead for acceptance, empathy, patience and a willingness to listen and offer support.
Today I’d like to return to you, or to me, as the case may be, and how we deal with our self-image. The society that we live in puts a great deal of emphasis on what we see in the mirror and not who we see there. Physical beauty and fitness are good; while plainness and deformity or obesity are bad. By implication, the image that we see in the mirror of our physical appearance predisposes us to draw conclusions about the character and worth of the person that is there. Yet, stare as hard as you might, you will never actually see the traits like honesty, integrity, humility, kindness or a loving and giving heart that really makes up who you see in that mirror.
Mahatma Gandhi was not an imposing or even impressive figure of a man in the mirror, yet he led a nation to freedom. I’m sure that some who may have encountered Mother Teresa in India, and not known who she was, would have just seen a squat, homely looking old lady in a nun’s habit and not realized that they were seeing someone who would one day become a Saint. Many who met Lech Walesa in his early years as an activist in Poland might have just seen a somewhat angry little Polish electrician who could be dismissed, rather than the future leader of Poland and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. And, how about Detroit activist Rosa Parks? She was certainly not a lady trading on her looks when she decided not to move to the back of the bus, adding fuel the civil rights movement locally. Do you think that any of these people were concerned about what they saw when they looked in the mirror? I suspect that they were much more satisfied with who they saw there, and not the least concerned with what they saw.
How do you refocus so that you feel good about who you see in the mirror and not worry so much about what you see there? First, realize that all of those people would have almost always seen others around them in that same mirror – those that they were helping and those that were helping along with them. So, join in the movements and groups in your community that are trying to help in your area – get involved. They would have also noticed that they seemed to always be doing something and not just standing there by themselves and admiring themselves. In fact they probably passed many mirrors and never even noticed themselves in those looking glasses, because they were too busy “doing” to spend time looking.
Get busy doing. Don’t worry about what others may think of you; focus instead on what you can do for others. Commit yourself to what you can do, to your part in the bigger scheme of things, and be happy with that contribution. If asked about their contributions to society, the people mentioned above might have had answers that sounded amazingly similar, “I’m just one person trying to do what I can to help others.” Reflect on that.
Do you see yourself in roles like that? Do you see yourself helping others, without personal concerns about how you look? Do you see yourself joining others in efforts to help that are bigger than one person can accomplish by themselves? Do you see yourself stopping to ask the homeless man what he needs and how you can help? Do you see yourself getting your hands dirty on a weekend helping to build a new home for someone? Do you see yourself standing in the middle of a street with a collection bucket doing what you can to help people that you will never meet? Do you see yourself serving a Thanksgiving meal at a shelter? Do you see yourself visiting a shut-in in a local retirement home? Do you see yourself reaching out to help someone who is experiencing a tough time in their life and just need a friend to talk with?
If you see yourself doing any of those things, or performing other acts of kindness, charity or love towards others when you look into the mirror; then you are seeing who you are, not what you look like and that’s a beautiful thing. If all you see in the mirror that you hold up
to your life is someone looking back at you who needs a bit more mascara this morning or who might need to visit the gym to lose a little weight; perhaps you need to find a new mirror.
Who do you see when you look into life’s mirror?