When I was in high school, I started going to counseling in an attempt to manage the alcoholic parent piece of Robinson Drive. I’d grown up on my mom’s self-help books and had attended several al-anon and al-ateen meetings. I knew the language of counseling long before I got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I’m no stranger to the techniques and tactics. But one technique that was used, left a lasting impression that I think about often. My counselor at the time, walked me into the cold bathroom of the building we would meet in, and forced my face into the mirror. He held my face there, for what felt like an eternity and kept asking me, “what do you see?” I remember looking at the freckle faced girl in the mirror and all I could do was cry. And he kept repeating, “what do you see?”
To be honest, I don’t even remember if I ever managed an audible response, besides sobbing. I can almost feel his cold hands on the nape of my neck still today. But what DID I see? I saw a girl who was SO incredibly scared on the inside, but played so brave on the outside. “Chin up, smile bright, and no one will know”, I reminded her. What I saw, was a girl who felt ugly, and ashamed and small. I saw the girl who was told, “if obesity was a crime, you would be put away for life.” I saw the girl who so desperately wanted her dad’s approval, to hear just once, that she was pretty, that she was worthwhile.
Over time, I learned to challenge my perception of that girl in the mirror. I learned to tell her all the things she needed to hear. “You are worthwhile, you are enough…” I learned to care less about what other people thought of me, and to care more about being thoughtful of others. I adopted this saying by Mother Teresa:
I would be kind anyway, even when it was not reciprocated. I would do good anyway, even when it wasn’t popular. My worth would not be based on the perception of others. I would give my best anyway. Not all days have been sunny, but I’ve been able to look at the girl in the mirror and like who I see. Not based on the world’s standards of beauty, but based on the difference I set out to make in this world. To encourage others, to love them anyway.
And so I wonder – when you look in the mirror, what do YOU see? Have you bought into the world’s lies that you are not enough? What voices do you listen to when you look in the mirror? And how different would the reflection be if you decided to see your beauty and your worth?