A quick glance in a mirror is all it takes to fire off negative thoughts in my head… I am the least observant person ever, but I can spot a new wrinkle, or bigger than usual bags, or the extra witchiness of my hair in less than two seconds. I didn’t realize this until a friend pointed out that I have adapted an excellent way of coping with this. I avoid looking in mirrors. Constantly.
I wash my hands and don’t look up until I am searching for a towel. I brush my teeth while checking my phone. I use only a tiny compact mirror when putting on makeup so I don’t see too much of my face at a time.
Yes, this means that I often leave the house not knowing that my last night’s mascara makes me look like a raccoon, or that my hair may not have been brushed for days but merely tied up messily in a clip while walking down the stairs. What it does ensure though, is that I avoid a good look at myself so I minimize the bashing that accompanies those evaluative looks. I am free to ignore my visible flaws, whether real or perceived.
Isn’t it strange that I am more willing to look like an actual mess to the outside world than to feel imperfect within myself?
The rational, lawyer part of me finds this absurd. Yet, my insecure, emotional being is fairly comfortable with this ostrich approach. It allows me to forget what I look like which means I don’t feel bad about what I don’t look like but wish I did. (You know, like a supermodel, or Sophia Vergara.) I have to say, I have no trouble laughing at my insanity, but I do have trouble overcoming it. After living as myself for 50 years, you would think I would have come to terms with my face and perhaps even appreciate it a bit, but as hard as I try, it is a rare day when I force myself to look and respond kindly.
I know that everyone has insecurities and worries, especially as we mature and our physical selves change. But, how do you maintain a healthy self image when our world constantly tells us that beauty is specifically YOUNG. And thin. With makeup. Lots of hair. Especially when the self denigration began when you were young but you still didn’t feel like you “measured up”?
How is it possible to make our wise, mature voices heard? Even to ourselves? How do we hold fast to our heartfelt belief that beauty is within when little in the world truly validates this? How do we teach our young women that which we doubt?
We can’t just pretend that we are all comfortable aging gracefully, we need to allow ourselves to express the real struggles that come with it. Secretive cosmetic actions aren’t the answer to confidence; secrets tend to invoke shame and that’s the last thing women need more of. Whether one chooses moisturizer or botox to care for their face shouldn’t matter other than to reassure others that almost everyone worries about their looks to some degree. We all struggle to be satisfied with our unique physical self. Ironically, as we internalize our dissatisfaction with our reflections, we celebrate snowflakes and take pleasure explaining to young children how each is gloriously different.
Please, I/we need answers and ideas. There are so many of us who consider the mirror our enemy but we have trouble admitting this even to ourselves. Yet, we know that until we welcome our own image, we will never be truly comfortable as ourselves.