Our biggest bully is the person looking back at us.
I wake up every day at 7A.M. in Brooklyn, eyes weary and tired from not sleeping enough. The light splays through the windows as the bustling street outside comes alive. It's not a forgiving light. It's harsh, formidable, intimidating. Without the light from the sun, and our electric lights and lamps, we'd never see anything. And some days I'd really like that. I put my feet to the floor and remember that I have an obligation to myself to start the day. And then the worst part of my day comes, a dreadful, weary walk to the bathroom where a sleeping orange and white kitty cat sprawls out on the floor, peaceful, purring and lovely. I lean down to pet the little cat with it's wide eyes and placid smile, but before I do I catch myself in the mirror. Damn it.
It is a shocking sight. I almost step back in horror. Where most would see a normal young woman, I see a zombified freakshow. A horror show. A mess. Self image is a dangerous thing. The dimorphism of looking at your own reflection is a constant battle. I see a tired face looking a little bit older and a little bit colder every single day. I'm looking rough and living strange in a world full of things I cannot control. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul right? Well mine seem like deep pits, catacombs to never be explored by anyone who has a sane bone in their body. Their green color, which should be serene and lovely creates a stark contrast to the redness of the whites. Irises glowing in the early morning sun...a spot of hope on a dark canvas. The creeks and cracks of a dissatisfied twenty-something meet my gaze. The lines around my mouth, aging...spiraling backwards into the corners making my faint smile look sick and pathetic. Harsh...harsh. Spots and splotches on the pale skin of a ghost, a harsh reality anyone akin to sleeping less than a mulling infant is familiar with.
If I didn't know better, I'd think I was cold blooded.
There are deep rings around my eyes with black and blue pigments. Signs of dehydration are frequent as my cheek bones get more and more visible each day. It's a good thing right? I stare more and more emptily each day and sometimes I try to avoid this experience all together. Not looking is better than really seeing. But this is what I see. Others will compliment me and say things like, "you're so pretty!" but it never sinks in. Is there something wrong with me?
The answer is no.
You're probably thinking that I'm just down on myself, or depressed, but I assure you there are young women all over this country and the world that feel the same way. We have the same horrific visions of ourselves. We're made to feel like the mirror is their enemy. We're made to feel like we are never good enough to meet the standards set by the starry-eyed ingenue's on the covers of magazines. Your cracks, deep set eyes without sleep and tired gazes could be beautiful if you could see what everyone else does. What I don't see...is that I am a person with a lot of miles on her. I have knowledge, a stable world-view. I'm a singer and an actress. I can write a little bit, and I'm kind...I try. But musicianship and artistry and skill doesn't look back at me in the mirror. I keep my head up day to day, but honestly don't feel that great about myself. I think the first step is to recognize that you're trying. The next step to feeling better about your reflection is to understand that you are your harshest critic. Nobody can get in your head, under your skin like you. It may be cliche, but you are your own worst enemy. If only for a second we could step outside our head space and see what the world does...well, then most of our problems would be solved. We shouldn't be afraid of what looks back at us, and we shouldn't beat ourselves up. Life is too wild and wonderful to spend it hating yourself. We learn the hard way that we're worth love. We're worth respect, and we're worth positivity.
Battling the mirror is a daily event, and it will only get better if we try to accept our differences. Our flaws are what make us amazing. No amount of inspirational mumbo jumbo or tumblr images with body positive messages can ever make us see what's on the outside. But by listening to the positivity around us, we can get better. We can feel better. We can love ourselves. Self love is necessary, and it's a long, hard road. But if we can end the battles with the mirror, and ourselves...the rest will fall into place.
What do you see when you look in the mirror?