If you’re similar in age to me, then you’ll probably remember the years of the ‘super models’, like Naomi Campbell, Helena Christiansen, Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford. They seemed to be the ultimate in effortless, graceful beauty. I was agog with awe at watching them strut their stuff in the George Michael video “Too Funky” back in 1990.
Around this time I remember Cindy Crawford famously saying in an interview “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning.”
This recently popped up in conversation with my teenage daughter. She’s at that age where she’s becoming far more aware of her looks, and the mirror in the bathroom is a far more frequent visitor.
Like all women, and possibly men (though I haven’t had men talk about this experience openly with me ever), we are very prone to being critical of what we are observing on those moments looking at ourselves getting ready at the start of each day. When my daughter was recently being critical of the way she looks and talking unkindly of herself it occurred to me to share this with her...
First thing I want to say is that I could have quite easily told her she is beautiful, for that is truly what I see her when I look at her, but I knew this wasn’t helpful. Let’s face it, being given compliments and positive feedback does very little to change our experience, and to be honest I find it a bit of a poor direction to take her in terms of understanding how she feels about herself.
The conversation went something like this....
Daughter – “I look ugly today.”
Me – “There are 2 things you might want to take into account before you jump to that conclusion.
Firstly. As you look in the mirror what you are seeing is not a true representation of your face. It is a mirror reflection that has effectively ‘flipped’ your face to reverse. This is why if you’re wearing a top with writing, you can’t read it properly.
Secondly. You are not really ‘seeing’ your face as it truly is.
Of course your eyes take in the wavelengths of light to the retina at the back of your eye and the tiny cells respond. BUT this information is then interpreted through thought. You’re not actually seeing an exact representation of your face, it’s an illusion dependent on your thought.
In fact everything we experience through our senses is interpreted through thought. This is why when we are feeling in an irritated mood we are unlikely to like what we see. We will be critical of what we look at and assume the problem is about the thing we are looking at, and not the filter through which we are seeing.
This is why when we are present and ‘in the moment’, we like what we see in the mirror. When we are truly in the moment, it is not possible to bring in criticism or judgement, for that can only come from a place of comparison, which has to bring in thoughts of the past or the future".
I then continued to tell the story of Cindy Crawford’s famous quote.
I explained to her that if you could pick the most beautiful women in the world do you think that they don’t have the experience of not liking what they see in the mirror on some days?
That gives us a massive clue to interpreting our thought versus what is really there – i.e. what the world considers to be the image of beauty. No matter how beautiful a woman may ‘appear’ in the eyes of the rest of the world, there is no woman on this planet that doesn’t have days where she experiences a less than satisfactory experience when she looks in the mirror.
If only ALL women knew that learning to be present would give freedom to see the beauty in themselves, and that when they don’t like what they see, it has a whole lot to do with thought and very little to do with what is really there.
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