Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror?
Actually, no; that’s not my question for you. My question is this: Do you ever really see yourself when you look in the mirror?
You know, there have been studies on animals to see whether or not they can tell their own reflection. Most animals will assume it’s just another animal, and others won’t even pay their reflection any notice at all. But there are some species, including us, who recognise themselves in the reflected image. Scientists believe this sets these groups of animals apart from the rest. That it shows a level of emotional intelligence above and beyond the norm. Perhaps, some believe, it shows the presence of a soul.
In my opinion, being able to recognise the general shape of your body in a piece of glass just isn’t enough to classify one being as more emotionally advanced than another. I think the truest test of all is being able to connect with that image, to move past the surface and see beyond. Which is why I no longer take my reflection for granted.
When I was a kid, I loved mirrors. My mum used to joke that I was vain, and I was: because I loved the sight of myself. I loved the confirmation that I took up space, that I was here and alive on this earth and that I could be seen. But somehow, somewhere along the way, I stopped paying attention to myself. I started to just glance in the mirror. I’d focus on what I was doing, whether it was my hair or make up, but I’d never really see myself. I don’t think I wanted to see myself.
But then, one day, I accidentally locked eyes with myself in the mirror. The sight made me stop what I was doing, and just really look at the girl staring back at me. There was a moment when we connected, the girl in the mirror and I. There was this spark in her eyes that I hadn’t noticed in such a long time. It was the spark of life, of potential. I looked at her, and I felt her look back and me, and for the first time in a very long time, we smiled at one another.
My relationship with my reflection has never been the same since.
This may sound strange to you, not to mention incredibly vain, and I get that. But the thing is, now that I have recognised the life inside my reflection, I can never maintain a negative thought towards her; just as I could never maintain a negative thought towards someone else’s appearance. There is so much more to us all than the bodies which we inhabit. They’re beautiful, and unique and wonderful, but they are only the surface aspect to ourselves. We are souls with layers. We are people with feelings. We are not bodies to be objectified.
So when I cross paths with my reflection, I no longer stare blindly at her: if you locked eyes with a stranger in the street, would you just stare at them with a blank expression? No of course not (and if you do, I would personally recommend that you don’t), because your natural instincts take over and you automatically react towards another person in some way or another. So, when I see my reflection, I react to her as I would any other person.
Perhaps I might smile at her, sometimes a huge cheesy grin and other times just a small twitch of the lips in greeting. Though sometimes, If I am not particularly approving of her appearance, then I might find that difficult, so I’ll react in a different way. Maybe I’ll frown, and then seeing her frown back at me will make me laugh. We’ll take turns to pull a funny face at each other when we’re both in a good mood, and when I’m in need of cheering up she’ll wink at me to make me smile.
You see the thing is, my reflection knows me like no one else ever could. She is my ultimate companion, my partner in crime. How can you hate someone who sticks by you through so much? Simple: you can’t.
I’ve written a lot of articles over the past year about connecting to yourself, and in each one it might seem like I was advertising some kind of ultimate life lesson which will help you learn to love yourself. But in truth, there is no best way. It’s a slow process, a snowball effect; different experiences build up over time until suddenly you realise that of course you have value. Why wouldn’t you? You’re human too. You’re real. You’re alive.
I cannot tell you how to make this process happen overnight. But if I could give you one piece of advice, that sits above and beyond all the rest? It’s to recognise who you truly are. To gain the ability to look at yourself and react with real human emotion, even on the darkest of days. Be kind to the person who will always stick by you no matter what shit the world throws at you. Once we begin to humanise our reflections, that is when we begin to learn to humanise ourselves too.
Your reflection isn’t something to hate. It’s a gift to cherish. As are you.