A couple months ago, I joined a dance team.
The other day at practice while we were working on faces, our team leader had us all look at ourselves in the mirror. Instructions were given not to look at anyone else—just to sit and take a good look at yourself. Immediately began the mumblings of "Wow, my frown lines" or "My eye is sagging here" or "Uhg, where did THAT come from?!!"
We are so conditioned to criticize when faced with a reflection of ourselves. Because that's what mirrors are for, right? To show us what is wrong? To show us what we need to fix?
A mirror does not only reflect physical disappointment, but it can reflect personal disappointment as well. The person staring back screwed up beyond redemption this time. That person will never be smart enough, brave enough, or confident enough. Sometimes I don't think I will ever forgive that girl for the things she has done or the thoughts that have crossed her mind.
As I sat there staring at my own reflection, I was surprised as an overwhelming sense of love flooded through my body. For some reason I stopped wanting to pick at all my flaws. The zit on my chin, the sunburn on my nose and shoulders, the flyaway hairs going every which way... I looked in the mirror and really saw myself—BEYOND my physical appearance. I was looking into my eyes thinking, "We're here. We've made it. Look at you."
I stared into the same hazel eyes I have looked into for the past twenty years, and I couldn't stop the corners of my mouth from turning upwards.
In that moment I was completely content. I felt pride in myself as all of my imperfections were looking back at me. Not just my physical imperfections, but my personal shortcomings as well. I saw all of it. I know all of the times I have failed, I know all of my shames, I know every disappointing truth. I know me better than anyone. Yet I looked upon myself with nothing but love.
This is the body I've been given.
It will age. Maybe gracefully—maybe harshly.
There will be periods of time where it will gain some weight and there will be times where it will shed a few pounds.
This is also the life I have been given.
I cannot go back and change the people I've loved, the people I've lost, the people who have hurt me, or the people I have hurt.
I cannot change the decisions I have made, or the circumstances I have been placed in that were beyond my control.
"Think about a time when someone let you down. Or a time when somebody hurt you."
Instant tears filled my eyes. Fresh wounds that I hadn't yet faced were torn completely open, while I sat and watched my physical reaction to it. It was brutal.
The longer I stared at myself, I began to recognize every little step I had taken that had allowed me to experience that moment. Every time I had judged myself too harshly for being human and making a mistake. Every time I have picked at and criticized my appearance. Every person who has knocked me down or crushed my spirit—and every person who lifted me back up again.
When we look in the mirror, too frequently we look to criticize. What if, more often than not, our purpose in gazing upon our own reflection was to behold a person we are truly and passionately in love with?
In a way that our reflection causes us to smile and think, "Look at you. Look at all that you have been through, and you are here. That is amazing."
I'm sure this was a sight. Twenty women of different sizes, ages and races sitting cross-legged staring at themselves in a mirror. It's not a particularly odd thing to do—look at yourself. I'm sure I do it ten times a day.
But how often do we really see ourselves?