I was in the midst of being in my happy time and place– my silent retreat where I return year after year to simply breathe. To remind myself of the beauty and stillness of the outdoors. To quiet my racing mind. To come so close to deer in the woods that I feel the earth vibrate under my feet as they leap away after our eyes have locked for several seconds. To share sacred space with other women who come to do the same.
I woke up early one morning with the excitement of seeing the sun rise. I threw on yoga pants and a sweatshirt and on my way out the door I caught a glace of myself in the mirror.
“Gosh, my thighs look so flabby.”
Uuuuuuuuummmm…. excuse me, myself? What the actual f***?
There I was, about to set out to take in beauty that is utterly incomprehensible, and I almost ruined it because of a stupid mirror and a nasty comment I made to myself.
Now. I am an American woman. So, it goes without saying that this is not the first time I had done this to myself. Oh, no. This was a fairly typical daily conversation I had had with myself, just like many other women, no matter how beautiful or perfect their physical appearance may seem to the rest of us. For heaven sake, part of what I teach girls is that the images of the models on magazine covers aren’t real, that everyone’s bodies have natural lumps and bumps, and that 6-pack abs are rare. I KNOW THIS! Yet still, I often look in the mirror and scorn myself for not meeting an imaginary standard. That is how ingrained this harmful self-ridicule is for women in our society.
Here’s a common scenario for me. On a day that I feel particularly happy, light on my feet, and confident, I say to myself, “Girl- you are rocking those jeans! And your skin is looking awesome! Oh!! Maybe you lost weight!?” To confirm my positive outlook, I walk to the ever-wise, ever-truthful tool that grants me the permission to be either kind or cruel to myself, the scale. I hop on with great anticipation that my reason for my self-acceptance today will be confirmed.
Up 3 pounds.
In a fraction of a second all the pleasure, peace of mind, lightness, self-kindness is stolen and sucked into the cold, black piece of rectangular metal on which I stand. My thoughts and feelings about myself just 90 seconds before?
I guess I was wrong.
What the actual f***?
Back to the morning of the sunrise, and the flabby thigh comment to myself. That moment was a turning point for me.
Before that morning, I would have freely allowed the cold glass mirror to suck my joy from me as it had many times before. The mirror and the scale– they had always been my affirmers. Except they never affirmed joy for me.
At that moment, I instead looked myself in the eyes, and said, “Don’t miss the sunrise. Let’s have a redo and pretend that you didn’t consult the mirror to affirm your joy before walking out the door. You can pretend that you have no idea what you look like. Now, go! Hurry! Don’t miss the sunrise!”
What if we were blind to what we looked like? I don’t mean walking around with unbrushed teeth and dog poop on our shoes, but beyond looking offensive, what if the image we see in the mirror is actually a reflection of what we carry in our hearts?
It reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter in the car after I picked her up from school. She often begins to process her day relatively quickly after she gets in the car and usually begins by asking an off-kilter question that I don’t always know where it will lead. That day she started with, “Mom, name the 3 ugliest things you can think of.”
“Ok, well, I’m gonna say a dead fish head, poop, and a land fill.”
“Ok, well, I’m gonna say _____________.” She named a person of whom she is not a fan.
Careful, carefuuuuuuul… parenting opportunity here. TRY not to blow it!
I knew who she was speaking of, and I’m not condoning calling someone ugly, but she wasn’t wrong.
I replied, “I always thought it was so interesting how someone may just look like a regular, average person; but by how they treat others, they can either look beautiful or ugly to us.”
My daughter is a child of few words. She got my point, her posture softened, and no more was said.
A child feels a person’s character before physical appearance comes into focus. We are all born with this ability, though most of us have lost it by adulthood. By the time we’re adults, we judge first by physical appearance, and character may never even be seen. Even, and perhaps most harshly, we do this when looking at ourselves.
That morning in front of the mirror before the sunrise was a game-changer for me. No longer will I let the mirror decide what I look like or the scale tell me how I should feel. My heart is my mirror, and my character is my scale. When I look at others I will look with the eyes of a child, and not through the lens of Vogue Magazine. I will not do this perfectly, but with practice, I will see people and myself as I did when I was a child. I will continue to exercise, fuel my body with nutritious food, and practice good wellness; not because it will make my thighs less flabby, but because I need to be healthy. I am valuable and important and needed.
How many sunrises have you missed because of what a cold piece of glass, metal, or person told you or how they made you feel? Whatever your “sunrise” is, for heaven’s sake, don’t miss it! Not because of that.
I’m so glad I didn’t miss mine. I never will again.
Go forth and be WELL,