What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see who you are today, or who you used to be? Do you focus on the details and not catch sight of the whole person? Wrinkles instead of wisdom? Weight instead of essence?
Sometimes it feels as if I am peering through a defective glass when I try to look at myself in a critical way. It’s hard to see what’s really there because I examine myself through the filter of memory, so it’s a bit of a fun-house effect. Some aspects are prominent, different ones reduced, and trying to perceive a detail can turn into an elusive pursuit. Other times it’s as though I’m viewing a stranger, someone completely unknown to me. I glance at a mirror as I pass, and am startled by the face flashing by. Who in the world was that?
Nor do we seem to see ourselves as others see us. We project different images of ourselves in different circumstances. We even call it “wearing different hats”, implying something we put on with each role we take. Occasionally someone will make a comment or compliment and the first thing I think is, “Boy! Are they off base!” What do they notice that I don’t? Sometimes I wonder if anybody ever views me in my entirety, and then, after some thought, am glad that perhaps they don’t.
Reflection can mean both an image mirrored on a shiny surface or introspection. Perhaps the two are not so far apart. In a mirror we glimpse not only our appearance, but our strengths, weaknesses, interests, roles, and experience.
The luckiest of us gaze in and see what we can be.