Mirrors, mirrors all around,
Why don’t I hear the joyful sound
Of myself clapping as I stroll by?
Is it you or is it I?
Aarghhh! My sincere apologies to the real poets of the world! The things I do to amuse myself…
Mirrors lie. All those pieces of glass with the reflective coating on the back – lie. You know they do. They never, never give us a true picture of ourselves. First of all of course, everything we see in them is backwards. We don’t see “us”. We see a skewed, backwards “us”. It’s not at all what other people see. We also frequently see ourselves as too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too old, too young, too wrinkled, nose too big, nose too small…
Any or all of the perceptions that I just mentioned could be a realistic interpretation of our reflection – or they may be in reality, totally inaccurate. We may feel the need to diet, diet, diet because we see ourselves as much too fat when in reality, we’re about twenty pounds underweight. We may see giant wrinkles under our eyes and make a panic call to our friendly reconstructive surgeon when in reality, it would take a magnifying glass to positively identify the tiniest of creases. And I’m not really a wrinkled, graying, fuzzy, balding, old geezer. The mirror is clearly showing me as a mature gentleman with interesting, distinguishing features.
Unless we’re putting out a bunch of effort to really see that which is being reflected back to us, we are only going to see that which we expect to see. Even then we’ll never hit 100 percent accuracy. It’s just the way our little minds work.
Our self-image, even without a mirror, is always at least a few degrees off from reality. We may imagine (image) ourselves as charming, outgoing and friendly when in reality we may be a loud, obnoxious pain in the rear. Or we may view ourselves as lower than pond scum and not deserving of a second look from anyone when in reality, we may be quite nice and pleasant to be around. It would be beneficial if we could have a more realistic picture of ourselves. It would be good if we could be more aware of our strengths – and of course, it would be really good if we could identify some of the areas that could use a bit of improvement.
Here’s where other folks can come in handy. First, another’s honest evaluation of us has the potential of providing at least a basic view of ourselves. You gotta remember what’s liable to happen here, though. To begin with, the “honest” part of the evaluation may (will?) be questionable. Well-meaning people sometimes just flat lie to keep from hurting our feelings. Apart from that, their observations of us will be shaded by their experiences (programming). We will be the recipient of their perception of us. And to top it all off, we will hear and process their information according to our experiences and programming. This may or may not correlate with their intended meaning. About the best we can hope for here is that we may get an indication of how we are perceived by others. Or use the old rule of thumb. (OK – so it’s my thumb and my rule…) If one person out of a hundred thinks you are a doofus, you probably don’t need to worry about it. Get up to fifty people and you likely have a problem to address. If ninety-nine percent of your acquaintances agree that you’re a butthead, you can expect to receive your certification in the mail sometime next week.
The remainder of this equation for performing a self-check using other people requires using our own self-evaluation abilities – which are of course, packaged in our own personal box of brightly-colored perceptions. (Are you getting the idea that none of this stuff will work out perfectly?) It boils down to a saying I heard a long time ago. If you point your finger – accusingly or in judgment – toward another person, you will always have three fingers pointing right back at yourself.
This is the mirror we alluded to at the beginning of this article. We see and subsequently condemn or judge in others, the imperfections or short-comings that exist in some form within ourselves. Our observations of others and our resulting comments – or even thoughts – can give us a good idea of some of the things it might be beneficial for us to work on.
Here are a couple of examples. The words “He’s an idiot!” from our lips is an indication that we may feel inadequate, stupid or an “idiot” relative to some section of our lives. “She dresses like a pig!” may mean that we’re not at all happy about some part of our appearance – or the impression we feel we’re giving to others. The flip side of this is that the positive thoughts we have about others, whether they are expressed verbally or not, often reflect the positive qualities that exist within ourselves. There is no pat formula for determining the meaning of these comments or thoughts. They can only be interpreted by their owner. That would be us.
None of life’s mirrors can provide a completely accurate reflection. But they can at least give us a few hints of some things we might want to think about.
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