National Eating Disorders Association

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall . . . Why Is The ‘Me’ I See In You Not Who I Am At All?

Don Blackwell

WordPress has a number of interesting features for bloggers who use its platform.  One of them is the ability to track how many people visit your blog every day and what posts they look at.  Recently, I noticed that an entry I re-posted on Facebook the other day, “A Little Girl, A BIG Red Balloon And A Radiant Reminder of What Being ‘Beautiful’ Is Really All About” , continues to attract lots of attention even though I first posted it more than 3 months ago, which is what prompted me to re-read it myself late Wednesday afternoon.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when the tears started to silently stream down my face as I watched the Dove “Beauty Sketches” upon which the post is based for what likely was the 100th time, because it happens every time!

This time around, however, it prompted a rather interesting thought: What would life “look” like, particularly a woman’s life, if we were never afforded the chance to see our reflection? Stated another way:  What if we never knew what we really look like?  What if, for example, we weren’t able to see whether our eyebrows were too thin or too thick or too close together or too far apart?  What if we were left to wonder whether our teeth were too big or too small, crooked or too close together, discolored or as white as a freshly bleached dress shirt?  What if women didn’t even know they had the facial blemishes, freckles, birth marks, lines, crows’ feet, etc. that they spend so much time (and money) trying to cover up?  What if we were oblivious to our facial skin tone, complexion, eye shading or shadowing and/or the state of our HAIR?  It sounds a bit preposterous, I know, but think about it for a minute (or two).

I did (on yesterday’s walk) and when I did I remembered an intriguing assignment my wife and I were given to do several years ago by an insightful and compassionate counselor.  We were sent home and directed to come up with independent lists of 10 character traits each of us found most attractive about our daughter – with the understanding that we would be asked to share them with her the following day. The only caveat was that we could only use one word descriptions. I can still recall doing that assignment and not pausing over it for even an instant.  Truth is: There were (and are) many such traits to choose from, but, ultimately, the following made my Top 10 – several of which independently found their way onto my wife’s list as well:

  1. Caring
  2. Compassionate
  3. Creative
  4. Friendly
  5. Funny
  6. Loyal
  7. Passionate
  8. Trustworthy
  9. Other-centered
  10. Intelligent


Interestingly, while all of those characteristics paint a very vivid picture of my daughter none will ever be visible in a mirror!  And the same is true for each of us, which makes me wonder: Why do so many of us spend so much of our time searching for who we are there?  Why do we allow a mirror to dictate our image of self?

The simple answers?  We shouldn’t!  So, here’s the challenge: Over the next 24 hours, I want you to come up with your own Top 10.  The list cannot mention (or have anything to do with) any aspect of your physical appearance.  In fact, for purposes of this exercise, I want you to pretend you don’t know what you look like!  If you struggle with it, ask a trusted friend to put together the list for you (i.e., “to show you to yourself”).  Once the list is complete, make up 10 separate little “placards” with one word on each and make them big enough so that when you cut them out and tape them onto it, they will cover every square inch of the mirror that “greets” you in the morning.  Then, do just that and once the mirror is fully covered leave the notes there for a week.

I’m fairly confident seeing the REAL YOU you in the mirror for seven days in a row, rather than the face you’re accustomed to seeing stare back at you (however “beautiful” it may be in its “natural” or “made up” state) will have a profoundly positive impact on your life – at least I hope it will.  What have you got to lose?

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