Recently, I decided to start a workout plan to lose a lot of weight and get into tip-top shape. I don't like to discuss it with people; in fact, I've taken to acting confused when folks comment about my small weight loss so far because I don't like their comments. I really do not understand why folks think it's polite to comment on the weight of fat people. Would they like it if I commented on their body image every time I saw them?
I think not.
Anyway, in the article there was a particularly revealing passage that discussed how we as humans create our self-image. Here is a snippet of it:
For that matter, humans do not necessarily see the face in the mirror either. In a report titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Enhancement in Self-Recognition,” which appears online in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Nicholas Epley and Erin Whitchurch described experiments in which people were asked to identify pictures of themselves amid a lineup of distracter faces. Participants identified their personal portraits significantly quicker when their faces were computer enhanced to be 20 percent more attractive. They were also likelier, when presented with images of themselves made prettier, homelier or left untouched, to call the enhanced image their genuine, unairbrushed face. Such internalized photoshoppery is not simply the result of an all-purpose preference for prettiness: when asked to identify images of strangers in subsequent rounds of testing, participants were best at spotting the unenhanced faces.
That got me to thinking. I've noticed that I gravitate towards mirrors that I think portray me in a positive light. You know the ones that make you look a few pounds slimmer, or make the light hit your face just so. It's so bad that I will only use certain mirrors in my house because I don't want to feel bad about myself before I go off into the world.
But, what really struck me was the concept that many of us not only choose favorable mirrors to check out our outfits, but we try to find those same mirrors when it's time to take stock of our characters and souls.
Self-examination is a painful and difficult process and one I'm convinced nobody ever really perfects. Some of us are more willing than others to consider our motives and our biases, but most of us just create an image of ourselves that we like, and then walk around believing that's who we truly are.
For a long time, I thought of myself as a generally decent guy that people respected for being honest and up front. Imagine my surprise when I discovered through a few friends that many people thought I was crude, arrogant and lacked social skills. It seems my penchant for speaking my mind wasn't actually endearing to most people, and rightfully so because I was arrogantly assuming that everybody wanted to know what I thought about everything.
In another case, my brother had a painful discussion a while back about how he feels myself and the rest of the family view him. He believed that I didn't respect him, didn't think he would accomplish his goals and was constantly putting him down. Initially, I reacted with anger to his comments, pointing out all the times I'd supported him, all the times I fought people to protect him and the myriad of ways that I looked out for him. But, then I considered my actions from his point of view, and I realized that at times when I thought I was playing the role of protective big brother, I was really marginalizing him and not showing him the respect he deserved as a man.
Both incidents made a huge impact on my self-image and my behavior, but I would have never known about them if I kept peering into the same internal mirrors I used everyday.
Another blogger said the other day that sometimes writing a blog can become a lot like screaming in an echo chamber. Most blogs attract like-minded people who want to have their worldviews reinforced in an entertaining and creative way. Very few people are going to constantly click on a link that sends them somewhere that doesn't make them feel good. I'm as guilty of this as everyone else.
Yet, stepping outside comfort zones and inviting new mirrors into your life is the best way to get a true representation of yourself. It forces us to re-evaluate all of our blemishes and beauty marks. It can give us a new appreciation for who we are and what we have accomplished, or it can send us back to the drawing board to figure out where we went wrong.
Mirrors do more than just reflect, they also refine.