The Woman in the Mirror

A few nights ago, my new friend Sarah invited me to join her for drinks and dinner at a beautiful rooftop restaurant in downtown Portland.  The view of the city was amazing, the wine was delicious, and the company was absolutely perfect.  There’s something soothing about forming a friendship with someone whom you know is a kindred soul.  For whatever reason, you’re both in the right place at the right time, your paths cross, conversations lead to laughter, similarities emerge, and the walls come down – if only just enough to see a glimpse of the secrets hidden behind the mask.

After my second glass of vino, I excused myself to visit the ladies room, and the hostess directed me to a hallway behind the bar.  As I began walking down the hallway, I noticed a woman walking towards me, seemingly heading away from the restroom.  At first glance, she appeared taller than I am, with a confident stride, and while her face was half-hidden in shadow, I could tell that she was lovely.  Her head was high, her shoulders were back, and she was walking as though she knew exactly how worthy she was of commanding respect.  After a few more steps, however, I realized… She was me.  I was walking towards a mirror that was indistinct, because it covered the entire wall from floor to ceiling.

The moment I realized that I had actually been approaching and admiring myself, my entire perception of that reflection shifted.  I became self-conscious, ashamed, and it was literally as though I could see my features distorting themselves, and all of those tiny, miniscule flaws that I instantly start focusing on when I knowingly look into a mirror, became apparent once again.  Not to be crude, but seriously – how fucked up is that?

I had to catch my breath in the bathroom stall as I processed what had just happened.  I had seen my reflection with fresh, untainted eyes, free of judgment, free of the toxic bullshit we insist on polluting our minds with.  I have ALWAYS known how unhealthy it is to be self-critical.  For years, it has been a constant battle between my intellect and my emotional mind.

I’ve read about people being caught off-guard by their reflections when they’re not expecting it, but this was the first time I’ve ever experienced it.  Part of me didn’t believe it would really make that much of a difference.  After all, who knows me better than me?  Now, I’m officially humbled by being proved wrong.  The difference between the woman I saw before I knew that she was me, and the reflection I see when I look in the mirror every day?  It’s staggering.

Why is this?

For me, it’s because I hold myself to completely unrealistic standards.  Expectations I would never impose on anyone else, judgments I wouldn’t even think to make about another living (or dead) soul, I insist on forcing them upon myself.

Intellectually, I understand that actresses and models are airbrushed and photo-shopped beyond belief.  Intellectually, I know that people who can afford personal trainers and private chefs are much more likely to have perfectly toned and slender physiques.  Intellectually, I realize that people who are paid to exercise are going to have a LOT more time to spend at the gym than I do.  So why is it so difficult for me to wrap my emotional mind around these rather uncomplicated truths?

Why is it so hard for me to really see the woman in the mirror, for exactly who she is?

She’s a fighter.  She’s a survivor.  She’s been to the depths of hell and clawed her way back out.  Through it all, she has always loved to laugh – so those laugh lines around her eyes?  She’s earned them.

Whether she’s taking her pit bull for an hour hike every evening, or hitting the gym on the weekends, she’s active and exercises regularly.  Still, she isn’t an athlete, so there are areas on her body that are fuller than she’d like them to be.  But guess what?  She’s not getting up at 4am to go running, nor is she giving up the sporadic emotional eating binge or wine marathon.  And since she’s not 24 anymore, this makes a huge difference.

Image issues have become an epidemic, and I’m sick of it.  I don’t even think it’s about caring what others think, at least not for me.  Believe me, I do not walk through this life particularly concerned with how anyone else perceives me, unless it’s someone I genuinely love.  If I care about you, of course I care how you feel about me.

No, this is about how we care for and feel about ourselves.  This is about being as kind to ourselves as we are to others.  It shouldn’t be such a huge challenge, but I know I’m far from being alone in struggling with this.  I also know that my experience with seeing my unfiltered reflection hasn’t “cured” my propensity for being self-critical.  What is has done, is given me something to close my eyes and focus on when those inner-voices start nagging away in their shrill, unforgiving dialogues.

I will remember the woman in the mirror.  I’ll remember her pride, her elegance, and her complete lack of self-doubt.

It’s definitely a journey.  But cheers to loving ourselves, and opening our eyes to our own beauty, just as we are.

6 thoughts on “The Woman in the Mirror

  1. Sarah

    Kindred soul, indeed 🙂 I’m so happy we are friends!

    • Molly

      Me tooooooooooooooo!!!!!! 🙂 🙂

  2. Kristian

    Part of my job is coaching my clients to become self sufficient. In order to do this, I need to help buid their confidence, & build rapport with them. We have “powerful questions” that we ask our clients. This helps to not only gets their minds working, but build their trust with us. We are currently discussing this topic during our coaching training sessions. Studies have shown that the average person has 60,000 thoughts a day. When we “talk” to ourselves we typically say things like “I am so stupid, I shouldn’t have done that.” Studies have proven that when we talk to ourselves, if we change the word from “I” to “you”, it changes the way we talk about ourselves. We are less likely to talk so negatively about ourselves, because we would not speak that way to someone else. For example, the other day I forgot my keys to the office, I of course was the first one here. I called myself stupid for forgetting. If you had forgotten your keys, & you were explaining the situation to me, and called yourself stupid I would say “Molly, you are not stupid. You simply forgot your keys, we’re human, it happens.” Why can’t I be that easy on myself, because it is true? Everyone makes mistakes such as forgetting their keys. We are our biggest critics, but how can we expect anyone to treat us the way we deserve to be treated, if we can’t even treat our own selves that way. Today’s powerful question is:
    “If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same manner you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?”
    It’s really an eye opener when you look at things in such a different perspect. Those 60,000 thoughts we have each day should not be wasted on negative things. So, embrace that woman you saw in the mirror, because you are lovely & worhty of respect!!

    • Molly

      I LOVE that… I love that you do such important work. Those are such valuable and crucial questions to ask others, as well as ourselves. Powerful indeed! Thank you so much!! xoxo

  3. Mom

    Believe it or not; I knew what was going to transpire before you revealed it!

    • Molly

      xoxo 🙂 🙂

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