“Mirror, mirror on the wall…”
I know I’m not the fairest of them all. Please don’t mention it again.
The energy we put into being beautiful or worrying about our appearance can often seem inexplicable and exhausting, or even vain. It is not, however, an entirely wasted effort. Concern – not to be confused with conceit – about our appearance is normal and beneficial. Multiple studies have shown attractive people are more successful; they are well liked, have a better chance at getting competitive jobs, obtain higher salaries, receive lesser punishments, and hold themselves to a higher standard of achievement.
Unfortunately, not all of us have genetics working in our favor…novelist, Khaled Hosseini wrote, “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.” For many of us, our reflection is not always our friend. We do not visibly fit into the pervasive media-molded form of beautiful and find ourselves struggling to radiate the self-love that makes a woman beautiful in a way Photoshop never could.
While Snow White’s Maleficent seems to have only one mirror (and a talking one at that), we are faced with the reality of seeing our reflection in numerous areas of our home, work place, and public life. Though these mirrors may not speak truth to us, they do show us truth.
Over and over.
As we face our physical self multiple times a day, it is essential to recognize how our reflections make us feel. If beauty truly comes from within, we need to evaluate what we really feel within.
Are you pleased with your appearance? Satisfied? Disgruntled? Or do you close your eyes and swiftly walk away? If the average woman views herself in a mirror eight times a day – approximately once every three hours – those are eight moments that can affect your temperament, alter your very disposition, bring you up or bring you down. Our attitude toward our physical self matters, perhaps more than we’d like to believe.
The media’s emphasis on “flawless” women with mostly unattainable body shapes and sizes is not lost on us, nor does it seem to be going away. While eating clean and exercising regularly is most certainly the best way to improve our health and bodies, there is another way to supplement the acceptance of our appearance, which will naturally contribute to self-appreciation and our overall attractiveness.
Let me suggest a shift in perspective and start by looking at our fingers. Maybe we see our nails need cleaning or trimming, maybe our fingers are stubby, or dainty and long, or perhaps they are manlier than we’d like. But what if we didn’t have them? What if we suddenly had to live without them? Even with the best biotechnologies, fingers are not easily replaced. Tasks such as picking up a small object or buttoning our shirt would become a huge obstacle. Let’s also examine the surface of a fingertip. There we will see the singularly complex pattern of ridges and lines that form our fingerprint. It is ours and ours alone, but often forgotten or overlooked. Our tongue print is also said to be unique. It is special to recognize there are parts of our body that are inimitable; they are a physical witness of our individuality.
“It is special to recognize there are parts of our body that are inimitable; they are a physical witness of our individuality.”
I suspect we are all breathing as we read this. Our nose – whether it is wide, bumpy, button-sized, or extraordinarily long – is humidifying, cleaning, and regulating the temperature of the air we breathe. How nice. Our eyes may not be our favorite color, or as large as we’d like, or lined with naturally luscious lashes, but they are capable of distinguishing up to a million different colors and can take in more information than the world’s best telescopes. Think how often we communicate with each other using just our eyes, they are an irreplaceable tool.
Many of us worry about the color, thickness, and length of our hair. We neglect to remember that it provides protection, body temperature regulation, and some sensory purposes. We also stress over our skin. If we see any bumps or wrinkles, or if it’s too dark or too light, we do whatever we can to change it. The value of the shelter it provides for our insides, or that it allows us to feel the world around us is discounted.
Our hips might be wide and our tummies stretched and marked by lines of pregnancy, and we forget that our bodies were doing one of the most miraculous works of all – creating and sustaining a new life. Sometimes our breasts are seen as too small, too large, or needing a lift. The mirror does not remind us that their main function is to provide sustenance for our babies, to help form a very special bond between mother and child.
We could go on and on but the point is we tend to disregard the reality of what we are seeing in the mirror.
We fail to see the beauty in function.
As we recall the overwhelming complexities of our body, as we come to see and appreciate these many wonders in our reflection, there is a certain respect gained for our very presence,
for the body that houses our soul.
This respect in turn lends to mending struggles we have with our appearance. It reminds us we are not merely objects made up of sexualized parts. We are in fact women, human, a miracle of an amalgamation of working pieces both macroscopic and microscopic and we should marvel at the wonder of our existence. When we look in the mirror we should appreciate the unique and functioning body we are witnessing. To see our reflection is to know something about what we have to face the world with, and what we have is remarkable.
“Our bodies don’t have to change to allow us to love them, but our perspectives do.”
Healthy will always look different on different people and beauty does not come in one shape or size. If we can see our bodies for what they are…instead of what they are not…our confidence, authenticity, and self-love will overcome our insecurities. We will be beautiful. Our bodies don’t have to change to allow us to love them, but our perspectives do.