We all dream of living a fulfilling life. Every one wants to be happy and healthy, enjoying success in their work and meaningful relationships with the people closest to them. Coming to know ourselves in fullness and truth is foundational to our ability to be successful in our lives. Understanding our strengths and preferences, our nature, our temperament, and our own unique needs provides the platform we need to launch into our personal significance. It is when we see ourselves as loved, and worthy of success, and connected in belonging to the people we care about, that we are truly free to pursue our deepest passions. Helen Keller put it perfectly:
What I am looking for is not out there. It is in me.
This quest for ourselves is where freedom starts, because if we are successful in this search, nothing can hold us back from our passions. Knowing how to meet our own intrinsic needs allows us to get on with the business of pursuing our purpose with unfettered passion. When we know who we are, and when we are confident about that person, we run at our mission like a bull at a gate. When we like who we are, and we see ourselves without destructive filters we are more free than the American dream.
What Is In The Mirror?
When we look into the mirror, what do we see? Over the course of my life I have had several experiences of reflecting on my self concept. Each one of these times speaks volumes about how I saw myself at the time. In retrospect I can see that how I perceived myself directly affected the opportunities and outcomes of my life.
The first mirror memory I have happened when I was thirteen years old. I’d just had yet another a massive fight with my stressed, working class parents in our over-crowded army home. After standing my ground for ages, I finally stormed off to my bedroom and slammed the door behind me. I don’t remember what the fight was about now, but I do remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror that hung to the left of the door, just above my dresser drawers. The anger inside me was a raging torrent of teen hormones, and the tears I had been trying to swallow back in pride were released the moment that door crashed shut. I stopped and looked at my crying self in the mirror, and it was surreal. I saw the resentment I had towards my life, and the defeat in my outlook. I saw someone who felt trapped and disempowered. My tears were those of a victim who could barely see out of them. I sat on my bed, and just cried. My dad opened my door and barked further at me, “What are you doing?”
He didn’t know what to do with my candid response. It silenced the argument. He left. Even though I felt trapped in my family situation, I still stood my ground and owned my feelings and my reaction. I felt trapped in my emotions, but in my response I showed I was free.
The Mirror Showed My Reality In The World
My next significant mirror moment happened two decades later. I was thirty-three years old, and I was just back from a run. I had been slowly developing my fitness, diligently doing the evening jogs that helped me recover after losing my voice. Those runs were brutal. I was desperately overweight and the isolation of the voice strain injury had left me depressed, anxious, and broken. I saw my reflection in the mirror as I opened the glass shower door. How could this be? I had run for a good half an hour, but I was still the same size as before I left. I felt thinner. With all of those endorphins buzzing and my muscles zinging from the work out, I felt like an olympic athlete. Surely I should look like Beyonce by now?
But no. I was still this overweight person whose reality in the world was still pretty far away from the reality I was hoping to create. When I looked in the mirror that evening, I realised that my circumstances provided me with a limited view of the greater picture. The full truth was that I was already healthy and whole in my person, but my circumstances would take time to reflect that. When I looked into the mirror this time, I realised how I see myself on the inside will always become evident on the outside, if I just give it enough time.
The Mirror Reflects My Choices
The last significant mirror moment occurred a couple of years ago, after my husband died. I was getting ready to go to work at the warehouse I used to share with him, and reached across the mirror to the shelf where my perfume lived, only to find that the bottle was just about empty. Now this might seem an ordinary event to you, but for me, it was pivotal. It might seem absurd, but I had never bought perfume before. As the oldest of five in a poor family, this sort of thing was considered an unobtainable luxury. Then, as Alec’s first lady, perfume was always gifted to me for Christmas and birthdays.
As I looked in the mirror, I had to decide how I saw myself. Would I see the oldest of five and mother of two who always put the needs of others first, and didn’t indulge in luxuries? Would I see the grieving widow whose greatest fear was that she would never be loved again? Or would I see myself as beloved? Worthy? Connected in belonging? And as I looked into the mirror I realised that the only view that suited me now was to believe that I was beautiful, and only I could give myself the gift of self love.
The next time you look in the mirror, take a closer look. Examine behind the reflection. Be transparent with yourself. What do you see? And promise me, that you will keep looking, and keep refining, and keep cleansing, until you see the truth. Because in the mirror is someone who is beautiful on the inside and out, valuable to connect with yourself and others, and worthy of all of the love you can give and receive. You are Infinite. You are everything. And you most certainly are enough.