Have you ever stripped down and stood in front of a mirror and seen how long you can look at your reflection? I have. The challenge was short-lived, and it’s not about the rolls and excess body weight. It’s not about the imperfections on my skin. It has nothing to do with freckles or the fact that my nose has that dent bump from a childhood dog bite or the mousy colour of my hair. Staring into that mirror forced me to look at myself. All of myself. And that was the scariest place I could be.
We live in a society where we are told what to wear, how to wear it, what to weigh and what it means to be successful. We are told how to fit in with society, which television shows to watch, which diets to be on, which political party to vote for and through social media we have created the perfect storm of insecurity.
Statistically, we currently have the highest rate of diagnosed clinical depression in history, and if a survey were taken to see how many people reading this felt a sense of self-confidence in themselves and their abilities, the results would be lucky to get to a 30 percent level of confidence across the board.
I remember looking at photographs from an office party years ago and one girl saying “Oh my word, I look horrible”, and another colleague replied, “Kodak doesn’t lie”. And neither does that mirror. Or does it?
As I’ve said before, I don’t do the mirror. This was never a problem for me. When my fiancé left me one day without warning, stopped taking my calls or messages and cut all contact, I started wondering if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. A month later, I was retrenched from my dream job because the government introduced legislation that said I needed a degree now to do what I had been doing successfully for years. And I knew I couldn’t possibly afford to study for a degree. This was when “I’m a failure”, and “I’m not good enough” became a part of my vocabulary. Me, the confident, loudmouthed extrovert; suddenly clammed up and silent. Because I didn’t feel that what I had to say had any value, I felt that I was a fraud. I felt that I, as a person, had no value to offer.
It’s funny, I’ve worked through many of those issues over time to a certain degree, but there is still that voice in the back of my mind…whispering from the reflection in the mirror that there is something wrong with me, to the point where I recently went on a date and from the moment I was asked out, to the moment we said goodbye (and it was a truly magical night, looking back on it), I kept waiting for the punchline. It must be an elaborate hoax. Because I didn’t deserve to feel this good.
I recently watched a talked by Dr Brené Brown on Youtube, entitled “The Power of Vulnerability”, who had studied the phenomenon of shame and fear of belonging. And she said something that shook my world. She said, “The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe they’re worthy of love and belonging…They have the courage to be imperfect”.
As simple as that. The fear to stand in the mirror, see the flaws and STILL say, “I am enough. I am good enough”.
I am learning that it is when we feel most insecure about something within ourselves, that we lash out at others. That bitchy twink who made you feel like shit at the club…he can’t look in the mirror either because the mirror shows him what is lacking in his life too.
How sad that we allow ourselves to be led by the nose like this. Our faces are always tilted down to our phones, where social media tells us what we are enraged about today, and what is beautiful.
The cycle only stops if we allow it. Get help. Speak to someone, or as they say in psychological circles, lean into the discomfort.
We often think that asking for help shows weakness. That we must be strong to be successful. But I put it to you that the act of asking for that help is the very essence of bravery itself. Because the next generation is watching us, and they are looking for lessons and methods to use to cope with this thing we call life. So, don’t you think it’s time we showed them something worth learning?
If you have ever read Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, “O”, she always ends with a column called “What I know for sure”. I don’t know what I know for sure. But I do know that I would like the answer to be “I am enough”.
Craig Stadler is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute. You can enjoy more of his fabulous writing on his blog https://thatcakeguysa.wordpress.com/