What do you see when you look into a mirror? Dark circles under your eyes, a legacy of too many late nights followed by early mornings? Laugh lines that bear testimony to the good times you have had? The first flash of grey at the temples that strikes terror in your heart? A slimmer waist, the results of a no-carb regime? Or a middle-age spread that no number of abdominal crunches can banish? Do you see your father (or your mother) staring back at you? Or do you see the features of your first born in your own crumpling face?
Speaking for myself, I must confess that I don’t dare look too closely. Well, not first thing in the morning anyway. And even after a shower and lavish applications of moisturiser, it is best to maintain a safe distance till the kajal and lipstick are in place. Only then, with a mask of make-up (okay, minimal make-up I grant you, but you’d be surprised by the difference it makes) to hide behind, can I bring myself to look at my reflection straight in the eye and not wince. And even so, I never allow my eyes to wander below my chin; yes, like Nora Ephron, I too feel bad about my neck.
When we look in the mirror, all we see is our many flaws, some real, some that we only imagine
These days, of course, the mirror has been replaced by the camera phone, as the absolute deluge of selfies on social media makes clear. The world seems to be full of people staring at themselves in their phone screens, making the requisite duck face (chin down and elongated, cheeks sucked in to create hollows, and lips pushed forward in a trout pout) and going ‘click’. The judicious application of a few filters on Instagram, and voila, you have a new image to send out into the ether that is the virtual world.
Donna Karan famously designs while seated naked in front of a mirror
But while camera phones have their uses, there is nothing quite like a mirror to get to grips with your own image. Donna Karan, for instance, famously designs while seated naked in front of a mirror. According to her, this brings into focus all the many flaws that her body, and by extension, the body of every woman, possesses so that she can work around it.
Because let’s face it: that’s what we see when we look in the mirror, don’t we? All our many flaws, some real, some that exist only in our own imagination. And then we duly beat ourselves up about it. If only I had bigger eyes, better teeth, a trimmer waist, longer legs, bigger (or smaller) breasts, life would be so much better.
But here’s a novel idea. How about we get naked in front of the mirror. And instead of focusing on all the flaws that our bodies possess – and in our minds, there are hundreds of them – we try and see the beauty instead. That instead of beating our bodies up for being fat, flabby and flat-out useless, we treasure them for all the value they add to our life.
Let’s start from the top, shall we? Never mind the thinning hair; people start losing hair from their 20s. And if the grey really bothers you, there’s always hair dye. It’s what lies underneath that you should be grateful for. The brain that helps you remember both the big stuff and the minutiae of your life: the first time you fell in love; the date of your wedding anniversary; the moment your baby thrust its way into the world; the last day to file tax returns; where you left the car keys. Imagine, for a second, that it didn’t work. Yes, you’re not worrying about your receding hairline now, are you?
And then, there’s your face; what the world judges you by. But no matter what you think, nobody else is focusing that much on the wobbly double chin or even the lines on your forehead. It’s the expression in your eyes that matters; and whether your lips are drooping down in a scowl or curved upwards in a smile.
Only with a mask of make-up can I bring myself to look at my reflection and not wince
But you know what? Never mind what the world sees and makes of you. There’s plenty here to be grateful for. The eyes that allow you to appreciate the beauty of a flowering rose; the nose that lets you take in the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen as your mom cooks your favourite dish; the mouth that makes it possible for you to appreciate fine wines, good food, and the fruits of the season and kiss your loved ones.
Instead of obsessing about how your breasts don’t look like that French lingerie model, just be grateful that they work well enough to make food for your baby. That while your stomach may not have washboard abs, it can take all the junk you throw at it and still keep you healthy (okay, kind of healthy). Never mind the bingo wings they have acquired of late, your arms can swing the ball a long way on the links. Your legs may sport a bit of cellulite but they can still take you up that mountain to witness a sunset like no other. And your feet may not look pretty, but they can soak up the warmth of a beach and make you sigh with contentment when you soak them in a hot tub.
There’s really a lot to be grateful for; so just take a moment and say thank you to your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever get, so make sure that you cherish it.
Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock, Thinkstock
From HT Brunch, November 24
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