I saw this beautiful photograph and it made me stop and think. What image is it that we see of ourselves within our reflection? For years I couldn’t see anything, but my pain, my past, my failings. It was a negative cycle. The feeling inside of never being good enough and the perpetuation of that through my own internal negative self-talk.
I’ve talked about this a few times, I think — But for a longer time in my life than I ever care to say, I was a very angry person inside. Bitter with life, the way that the cards always fell and how things usually seemed to fall apart at a whim. I was angry at the loss I had endured, the constant falling away of the things that meant something to me. I couldn’t grapple with the idea that I was in charge of creating my own reality. When nothing was going as I thought that it should, I saw it as if it was the universe, god, whatever bringing this state of existence to me. I flew off the handle too many times to count and blamed others for my reactions, not realizing that my reactions were just about all that I truly had control over. It took me a lot of work to see the things about myself that were way less than desirable and make the steps towards changing them. Change of course is a conscious effort that requires you to stay mindful of your flaws and keep yourself in check each time old habits creep back in. It wasn’t easy and it’s still not, although as time goes on it gets easier to recognize the things that aren’t productive to your change and stop them in their tracks.
It seems like more often than not, we look at ourselves in a way that is destructive. We don’t see that we can change the things we do not like. That we have the ability to step outside of the box that we shoved ourselves in and improve. We almost see ourselves as helpless to who we are. Unmovable and unable to change for any of the better. Life beats us down and we look outwardly for someone or thing to blame, to take the fall for why we are the way that we are. Why we are so unhappy, frustrated, angry, resentful or sad. We look to others for some sort of semblance to define us, explain us to ourselves. We watch for their approving eyes and consider their opinions of who they believe we are, to be of higher importance and significance than to that of our own. We give our power away in that moment of looking outwardly for approval instead of learning to approve of ourselves and changing what we can’t stand to look at. We convince ourselves that if people like me this way, then why should I change? Even when we don’t like ourselves. On the same token, we also persuade ourselves into believing that what we don’t like about others is something that THEY need to change about themselves. Not understanding that our problem with them, is us. In our own understanding of them. As hard as it is to change yourself when you are actually willing to, it is impossible to change someone else. Whether they are willing or not.
Our focus when handling difficult people becomes about who we think they SHOULD be. How THEY need to change to suit us and make it more comfortable for us to deal with them. Instead of realizing that if you cannot handle, love or appreciate someone exactly how they are in that moment — Then the most loving thing you can do is to remove yourself while you figure out how YOU can effectively change your ideas of them, and your way of handling the things that you find less than desirable. Sometimes you come to understand in that instance that you’re just not meant to be in that person’s life and other times you are able to find a source of compassion and patience for them. Either way, the change starts with you.
As I saw this picture I thought about the difference in the reflection of who I saw myself to be two years ago, ten years before that, and what I see now. I don’t recognize that person anymore, thankfully. I see someone who has survived, sometimes just barely, but it’s still survival! I see someone who has thrived in the midst of life’s chaotic moments. In the same light, I also see someone who allowed themselves to be beaten down and defined by the obstacles, and somehow came to understand that the only person who can change and define who she is, is her. I see the lack of judgment for the outside world and unyielding constructive criticism for myself. The struggles are no longer that dark grey visible crack across my reflection, but instead are shown through as the change in self-awareness in my own eyes. I see someone strong, but vulnerable enough to admit their mistakes and conscious enough to own them and not let them become the equivalent of who she is. I see a reflection that gets brighter by the day with every bit of hard work and effort to change for the better. In this I see myself now in a positive light. One that helps me in reaching my goals and evolving into what I was meant to be, and not further downward spiral into who I was. And I’m actually grateful for all of it!
The key in it all though, was being able to acknowledge the image of myself that I was seeing. To pick it apart to the bones in order to release the things that were muddying my reflection. Once I did that, the hardened exterior that was determining the course of my own reality, fell away. I saw the raw parts, the brokenness that needed to be mended, cared for and healed. The work began in the image by which I viewed myself. It’s easy to look away and forget the hideousness that’s there. It’s easy to talk ourselves into believing that we are who we are and it will never change or that we don’t want it to, as a form of self-love. After all, if we love ourselves than we see no fault in our character, right? But self-love is so much broader than telling yourself that you’re perfect just the way you are. It’s loving yourself enough to see the areas that aren’t so loveable and changing them. That takes honesty and humility. At the end of the day, we are the only ones that have to live in this skin and wade in our miseries. Why not do the work that would allow us to see a true and positive image of ourselves? It’s inspiring to me to be able to view this reflection and be proud of and kind of amazed at what I see. I never had that before in my life. I ripped myself to shreds every chance that I got. I allowed others to do the same by personalizing their ideas of me. To see the world now and not feel powerless, but instead feel in control of how I effectively relate to people, is a miracle in and of itself for me. To see myself and not hate what’s looking back at me, is profound.
Think on this — What image of yourself do you see? If it doesn’t make you feel pride, then change it. No it’s not easy, but nothing in this life worth having or doing, comes easy. That’s what makes it so incredibly worth it!