Over a decade ago my life consisted of college classes and work. Determined to graduate in five years after slacking off for the first three, my school schedule was packed. I also worked a lot. One of my jobs in college was at Nordstrom. In a rush from work to class, I made a mad dash past the children’s section of Nordstrom. As I rushed past one of the mirrored columns, I caught a glimpse of myself. I saw a pretty girl with long legs and long arms. I saw a girl who looked happy with a messy pony tail and all black clothes. “She’s pretty,” I thought to myself. Then I realized it was just my reflection. The messy pony tail now looked sloppy. The all black clothes looked uninspired. I looked tired and wore out.
The class I was rushing to was my favorite class: creative writing. We were working on different forms of poetry. The focus for that day: a sestina. The form and word repetition was strict. The topic was up to me. As I stared at my blank piece of paper, I couldn’t shake the feeling of catching my own reflection in the mirror. Why was I so pretty until I knew it was me?
Trapped in a Moment
For a single moment
before exhaling and after inhaling, I become
the image of who I am, an innocent person
in reflection, not knowing that it’s myself staring
back at me, purely, clearly.
It is me, once I look clearly.
But as I walked by, for a moment
I saw myself in my true form, a form distorted by staring
at myself. Looking too closely, I forced myself to become
viewing myself as more than a person.
I examine my reflection more than any person
should. All my flaws laid out clearly
in front of me. It would be easier to turn away but I am trapped
in the moment
when the image of who I am and who I want to become
appear next to each other. Staring.
Minutes feel like hours as the staring
contest between myself and the person
I wish to become
blend together. I no longer clearly
see myself as I did the moment
I accidentally caught my reflection and became trapped.
If my image could remain trapped
in memory as it was before the staring
began, remembering myself in that surprise moment,
I would like the person
who everybody sees clearly.
They see the person I’ve become.
In front of a mirror I become
forcing myself to clearly
see the reflection, not of who I am, but an image staring
back at me resembling a person
lost and distorted by the disruption of a moment.
For some reason, a reason I wish I could devote time and effort to studying, we are taught to be our own worst critics. We are taught to scrutinize every inch of our bodies. We are taught that what is on the outside matters more than anything on the inside. It’s everywhere, and it’s exhausting.
In that moment when I realized how critical I was of myself, as I processed my thoughts and my actions on paper, I made a promise to myself. I would be gentle with myself. I would be my own cheerleader. I would never beat myself up.
I think the tide is changing for our world. Companies that are visible to everyone are beginning to promote this crazy concept of self-love. The Today Show is on board. Professional runner Lauren Fleshman is keeping it real for her fans. More and more people are rejecting the idea that we have to look perfect in order to be of value.
Life isn’t about perfection. The one thing we all have in common is our ability to love. There is never too much. We never run out. It’s time for everyone to look at themselves in the mirror and love the person that they see instead of an image that has been distorted by staring too long.