Category: Self-love

What your mirror won’t tell you

I have trust issues. With mirrors, that is. Even on the days when I spend an hour doing my hair and putting on makeup, I look into the mirror and still see the flaws. You see, mirrors magnify our weaknesses and drown out our strengths. They allow us to view a skewed reflection, believing it is the truth. As much as I would like to believe that I use my mirror to see my favorite traits, telling you that would be a lie. I, like every human, pick myself apart when it’s just the mirror and me. I focus on that new zit that magically appeared, despite how well I take care of my skin. I focus on those tan lines that will ruin how I look in a strapless top. I focus on how my hair is frizzy (dang humidity). I focus on how the stretch marks across my thighs and hips refuse to disappear.

Did you know that what you see in the mirror isn’t even true? There is a phenomenon called body dysmorphia where our brains skew our own perceptions of how we look. Furthermore, we tend to focus on the things we don’t like and our brains make our flaws seem bigger and more important than anyone else would think they are.

As I remind myself of these truths, my body whispers, “Be gentle to yourself. Your mirror will never tell you anything besides lies.” I’m here to remind you (and myself) of what your mirror will never tell you:

Your mirror will never tell you what a great friend and family member you are. It will not remind you of your giving, selfless heart. It will not prompt you to call your friends or schedule a dinner date with your parents. It will always keep you focusing on yourself.

Your mirror will never tell you how much you’ve accomplished in your lifetime. It will remind you of your perceived failures: the muscle you’ve lost, the hair you can’t tame, the remnants of a body of your past. It won’t remind you that you’ve graduated college, landed your dream job, gotten published, started your own business, raised a beautiful family, and followed your dreams.

Your mirror will never tell you how you’ve changed your own life. It will remind you of the things you haven’t changed and of where you’ve been. It will make you focus on your scars, not on the healing. It won’t tell you how you’ve recovered from an eating disorder, walked again after surgery, given birth to new life, or worked your way up from rock bottom.

Your mirror will never tell you that you are valuable. It will magnify all of the reasons that you feel unworthy and not good enough. It won’t remind you that you are so loved by many. It won’t remind you that you are an integral part of your workplace. It won’t remind you that you have purpose beyond what you may comprehend in this world.

Your mirror will never tell you that you are unstoppable. Your mirror will hinder you, as you focus on the things that bring you down. How can you tackle a big project or presentation when you are subconsciously fixated on the gap in your teeth or the zit on your face? Your mirror won’t remind you that you are a force to be reckoned with.

Your mirror will never tell you that you are more than your appearance. It only knows appearance. It won’t remind you that your “big thighs” are strong and can take you places. It won’t tell you that your “fluffy arms” take care of people. It won’t tell you that your “puffy eyes” reflect joy and see the best in others.

It is up to you to look past the mirror and move beyond the surface level, deeper into the core of who you really are. Use your mirror to help you get ready in the morning, and then say goodbye to it for the rest of the day. You are so much more than what your mirror tells you. And after all, who wants to be a slave to lies?

Grace, not perfection

The start of a new year always brings thoughts of change, goals, and resolutions. However, I have found that in the past these New Year’s aspirations led me on a path of anxiety, perfectionism, and ultimately, defeat. A resolution to “be healthier” led to calorie counting, compulsive use of a fitness app, and excessive weight loss. A resolution to “get all A’s” led to endless nights of homework, declining social events to study, and isolating myself to my desk chair and empty bedroom. A resolution to “exercise more” led to daily exercise, a constant need to burn calories, and feelings of guilt for sitting still. I tend to take everything and magnify it through the lens of perfectionism. A goal cannot simply be met. It must be exceeded. But this year, three words kept replaying over and over again in my mind as I settled in, ready to start the New Year: grace, not perfection.

How could I stand to move away from perfectionism? It is practically a part of who I am at my very core. After thinking about it for a long time I realized perfectionism is simply a crutch that I use to fill up the spaces in my life where I feel inadequate, unqualified, or unworthy. But looking back, the times in my life when I have been the most successful, happy, and free are the times where I have shown grace, not perfection.

Perfectionism will always fail you. If you hold yourself to a standard of perfection, you will never be enough. Your own expectations for yourself should build you up, not tear you down. Why would you set goals for yourself that you wouldn’t dare set for anyone you love?

Perfection creates doubt; grace creates contentment. Perfection leaves you empty; grace fills you up. Perfection is unreachable; grace is realistic. Perfection is fleeting; grace is lasting.

This year I challenge each of you to strive for grace, not perfection. Realize that perfection is a myth. Grace is a truth. Set goals for yourself that will allow you to show progress. Set goals for yourself that are attainable and realistic. Set goals for yourself that will bring about positive changes in your life. You are worth more than the lies that perfection will feed you. You are worth more than the unattainable goals you set for yourself. You are worth grace.

Compare less, live more

There’s a woman on Instagram who I stalk religiously. I follow her just to see her perfectly posed, stylish, artsy, beautiful photos that always seem to have the perfect lighting and filters. I don’t know her, but I want to be like her. We all have that person. We reluctantly open our social media apps, promising ourselves that today we will not engage in comparison; but we do so anyways. Some days we hate ourselves for it. We hate ourselves for wishing that we were someone else. We hate ourselves for who we are. Why do we have so many flaws, while others seemingly lead picture-perfect lives? We feel inadequate when we compare our behind-the-scenes realities to everyone else’s highlight reels.

It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I beg to differ. Comparison is the thief of everything. It steals our happiness, confidence, and time. It takes over our thoughts, which could be much better spent on other things. It makes us either feel superior or inferior, neither of which is healthy. Comparison breeds jealousy. Jealousy cultivates self-hate. Self-hate leads to anxiety, depression, and a host of other issues. Comparison steals the best of us and reinforces the worst of us.

We tell ourselves things that we would not dare say to anyone else. Negative self-talk drills to our cores and poisons our thoughts. It influences how we speak to others. When we are happy with ourselves, we do not feel the need to bring others down. We no longer need to rely on the crutch of comparison. But how do we stop it?

Let’s learn to admire others without questioning ourselves. Next time you feel the urge to compare yourself, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this comparison fair to myself, or to the person I’m comparing myself to?
  • How much time out of my day will I spend comparing myself to others? What else could I be doing with this time?
  • Do I have anything to gain?
  • Will I feel better or more confident afterwards?

Emerge from the security of the efforts to carefully construct yourself. Meet your true self – your honest, un-edited self. You cannot expect to find security from a broken identity. You must become intimately aware of yourself. You must embrace who you are, where you have been, and who you want to become. We all have the capability to love, serve, give, and pursue the greater things in life. Acknowledge the struggles of your past that you have conquered. Practice gratitude for your current state. Learn to not rise and fall with each success and failure. Your identity should be stable regardless of what happens to you, and regardless of what other people are doing.

Celebrate progress, not perfection. Foster gratitude over comparison. Respect yourself and embrace your own uniqueness. Everyone was created with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is only when you decide to fully, confidently accept your own amazing and flawed self that you will begin to truly live.

Decide what is important to you. Would you rather spend your time thinking of how you measure up to others, or contributing your own talents to others? Would you rather magnify your own flaws, or empower others by fostering their strengths? Find inspiration without comparison. Use the successes and strengths of others to drive your own creativity, passion, and goals. Other people are not #goals. But they can help you acknowledge your own goals, and give you the push you may need to get there.

Do not participate in the comparison race. Slow down. Focus on the leisurely aspects of life. Abide. Dwell. Delight. Move at your own pace. Stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle. You are where you are. Remember that you are only competing with your past self. Decide that you want to improve. Nurture your strengths. Accept your weaknesses. Recognize your beauty. Get lost in your dreams. Chase something greater. Free yourself.