Here’s a secret I haven’t told anyone: After I got attacked, I refused to look in a mirror—clothed or naked—for about two years. I’m finally now working on it.
Unfortunately, I also seem to have an internal dialogue that believes that somehow my opinion doesn’t matter as much as someone else’s. I think that’s the predominant mindset of someone, like me, with low self-esteem (and boy, is that hard to change!).
Recently, I’ve started doing an admittedly embarrassing exercise to combat these issues. I hate the phrase. “killing two birds with one stone;” I prefer, “getting two for the price of one.”
When I go downstairs in the morning, it’s totally dark and still. It’s usually approaching 4:00am and the house has just a slight hum from the fan. I turn on the bathroom light and look in the mirror at my face. Out loud I say, “I am brave.”
In the moment, it doesn’t feel cheesy. Of course, documenting it in writing exposes me in a way that makes it sound beyond lame, but I’m admitting it because it’s something I need to do for myself. I try to make eye contact with my own reflected eyes and hold it for 2-3 seconds. This may sound trivial and easy, but I struggle with eye contact in general and have to make a very conscious, and often uncomfortable, effort to do so. It seems equally hard, if not harder, to hold eyes with myself. After the two years of feeling utter disgust and repulsion with my own body and employing a concerted effort to always avert my eyes to prevent myself from the disgrace of my own skin, it’s incredibly daunting and foreign to simply look at my face. If 2-3 seconds is all I can handle now, it’s still a big step, and I will recognize that.
The first day I did this, I didn’t even use the light, just the glow from my phone. I simply looked in the mirror for a second and said nothing. Then I walked away in shame and got on with my day.
After a few days, I mouthed the word “hi” to my reflected self and thought nothing of it. As I approached the living room to see my dog I thought, why did I just say hi? Then I realized: it was the first time I was re-affirming myself as someone that matters, as a person to respect, as someone to greet. It was like an introduction to or a formal acknowledgement of this person I’ve become since literally picking myself off the floor after my attack.
So then, I had a few days of mouthing “hi,” which slowly progressed to a whisper. One day, a “good morning,” then: “you are brave.” On that morning, I stared back for a second, trying to lock eyes in the mirror. I wondered, when I’m talking to my mirrored self, should it be you are brave or I am brave?
I walked away, worrying that any over-analysis would make me too self-conscious and drop the practice all together.
I fluctuate now. I’d like to say: “I am brave” but mirrors have always been weird to me (is this an ASD thing?). Either way, I’m hoping this practice will translate into an increased comfort in looking at my own face or body and slightly better self-esteem and confidence. I have a long way to go but I think this blog coincides with my self re-introduction and both are small steps toward validating my existence, my strength, and my ability to contribute something meaningful to some piece of this world.