Friday, April 11, 2014

A mirror for the surface, or the soul? -

Joining with the She-lovelies this month on the theme of mirror.  What does it mean to you?

I normally don't look in the mirror much. I don't usually wear make-up. Occasionally my reflection is so frightening that I apply some for the sake of others, but most of the time, I just shrug and figure I'll do.  I walk my kids to school with my hair unbrushed and often my daughter's is too. I prioritise getting there on time, over grooming, achieving both seems untenable at this time.

Looking in the mirror feels weird to me. I am more of a cerebral person than a sensual one.  I can be tactile defensive and most of the time I am surprised that I have a body and forget that it's what carries me in my mind around.  Sometimes I catch my reflection after I've been at a social event and I'm horrified by the idea that while I was talking with people that they saw me!  It's as if my idea of myself and my physical self don't match.  I've no idea what I think should be different about my body or my face but they just somehow feel wrong a lot of the time.  Especially my face.

I recently rediscovered a song that puts this feeling into words. It was a relief to discover that I'm not the only one who feels this way, although I do still wonder if it's a peculiarly British trait.

"When you feel a little tatty and unhappy with your face. Let it [love] breathe into us, and put you back in place"  (Let love speak up itself - The Beautiful South)

I found it encouraging that the answer to that feeling is love.  Feeling tatty is probably a symptom of not feeling loved.

I have a daughter, so I desperately want her to feel loved and also to protect her from the dangerous worldly messages that surround the female form in the public domain.  I want her to be happy with her body and how she looks but also not to be too hung up on her appearance.  So far I've used a two-prong strategy that consists of:

(1) never letting the word 'fat' pass through my lips.

She is five years old so she has learned the word from other sources but so far it has no judgment value in her understanding - it is not synonymous with bad.

(2) I tell her she is smart and beautiful.

It is imperative that she knows deep down in her bones that these are not either/or categories. I always knew I was smart: there were report cards and parent teacher meetings that evidenced that for me.  I did not know I was beautiful and I still doubt it no matter how many times my husband tells me.  Those words could have been my kryptonite so I am thankful to God that even when a boy said them to me, and I heard them for the first time, it simply gave me a little hope rather than taking me captive to a desire for compliments.  I probably still err too far in the other direction as I treat most compliments with severe suspicion but I suspect that's the Brit in me too!

What is helping me most in accepting that there is a possibility that I am beautiful is that I believe with all of me that my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world and it turns out that she looks a lot like her mother.  Therefore, I must have some beauty.

For a while I made a habit of looking in the mirror, not at my appearance but to stare into my own eyes in an effort to see into my soul. I often find eye contact uncomfortable, and sometimes even this exercise of looking into my own eyes made me feel uneasy. For months when I did this, all I could see in my eyes was great sadness, even when the rest of my face tried to hide it.

Now when I look in the mirror, and feel 'a little tatty', I remember to look into my eyes, beyond the surface appearance of things to the soul reason for how I feel about myself.  A wrinkle or two, or a white hair, might make me sigh a little, but if I feel despair, I know it's not because of how I look - I need a mirror for my heart, not my face.

1 comment:

  1. Anne-Marie12:42 pm

    Thanks for this thoughtful probe of the discomfort we can feel in front of the mirror, and the possible reasons why. I love that you choose to get to school on time, and don't worry too much about being combed and brushed! :) Blessings, and thanks for linking up!