A while back I wrote a post about my utter shock that a style and beauty-conscious friend of mine doesn’t own a full length mirror (Weekend Observations: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall). After delving into the power of mirrors in literature (Sleeping Beauty anyone?) and in our everyday lives, I realized that mirrors may not be the best tool for our self-esteem. I applauded my friend for relying more on her own interpretation of her appearance than that of a reflection in a mirror staring back at her.
This complex relationship we have with mirrors is felt so strongly by one woman, Kjerstin Gruys, that she’s swearing them off for a year and blogging about it. ( See “Local Blogger Swears off Mirrors for a Year“). After writing my earlier post I would have congratulated her. And I still think that what she’s attempting is no simple feat.
But my feelings about mirrors have altered again.
Why? Because mirrors aren’t just scary devices that reflect how bad we look. That’s just our insecurity taking over.
Instead, mirrors can serve as a barometer of our strength, power and potential. Patti Davis said it best in a More Magazine article I sourced in an earlier post (Why She Posed in the Nude). When Patti finally decided to change her dire life from that of a scrawny drug addict to a powerful, confident, fit woman, it was her mirror that became her source of inspiration. It reflected how far she had come to turn herself around. The healthfulness of her body was a signal of overall health, and every time she viewed it via the mirror, she was reminded and reinforced by it. Her words:
We bear witness to ourselves in mirrors… Whether we’re clothed or not, the vulnerability is always there — as is the awareness that there is also, deep within us, an internal mirror. We are never completely finished with who we once were, and we meet that person every time we stare at our own reflection.
Over months and years, I did get strong. My body changed, and I took note of the transformations I saw in the mirror. There were anodyne moments of healing when I’d dispel my fears by looking at the musculature of my body. How dare you feel insecure, I told myself — look at the abdominal muscles centering your body; look at your legs, which can run miles and push heavy weights. Look at the power reflected there and feed off that. The body I had once dis-respected, that I had ruined with drugs, was now my therapist.
I’m not saying we should be slaves to mirrors and constantly be checking ourselves out every time we pass an image of ourselves. That’s just a major waste of time. But I do believe we shouldn’t shun a view of our physical selves. We should view our bodies as reflections of our lives. Our bodies and our internal selves aren’t separated but rather intertwined. Yes, sometimes we don’t like what we see, but that’s OK, as long as we are prepared to do something about it or come to terms with it somehow.
And if you do like what you see, well, hell, live it up!
Comment or tweet me your thoughts @beautyskew