My sister has an interesting concept about mirrors. She believes that everyone in our lives has the capacity to be one and that it is up to us to choose who to look in to.
Some mirrors are harsh and distorting. Like the fun house madness, you can hardly tell if the ‘monster’ you are gazing at is you at all. If you can see the trick and you know to take it lightly, then it can be a laugh. But if you sincerely believe that these reflections are accurate, then you can start to get a distorted image of yourself. You may begin to believe that yes, you really are quite stupid, or no, of course you can’t accomplish that. It starts to bring you down, and before you even realise it, their words are your world.
Other looking glasses are too lenient. I’m talking about those in dressing rooms that nip and tuck all your ‘flaws’. These proverbial Photoshops of the reflection world are only too happy to sing your praises and to forgive you for all your sins. Soothing to look at, they can lull you into a false sense of security that you really are, always right. And if you are already perfect, then there is nothing to improve upon.
There is nothing fatal about these two alternatives. You will not die nourishing your soul on either. But you might begin to develop a skewed view of yourself, which is in itself, disabling. We are all autonomous beings. Eventually, we are going to have to make our own decisions and life choices. And if we cannot trust the feedback that is given to us by our closest advisors, then how are we to navigate the world? At best, you are blind. At worst, you are headed in the absolutely wrong direction.
The ‘solution’ to these false mirrors is the true looking glass. It neither embellishes nor whittles down. Instead, it tells it like it is- which is what you need in a difficult situation. When you ask a true mirror what they think, they will tell you all the areas you have done well, but they will also point out assumptions, errors in thinking, lapses in judgement and the whole gamut of how you can improve upon the situation. They strive to be a true compass. They will tell you when you are lost and point you in the right direction, but kindly- without loss to ego or face. Importantly, they do not force. With the bearings they give you, you then make the choice of where you want to go next.
The best part of the true mirror is that you know you can trust them. With the distorting and overly-lenient mirrors, there may come a time when there seems to be no point in sharing the deeper side of yourself with them, as you are unlikely to get a proper ‘reading’ anyway. With the true mirror, you are able to let your guard down and be vulnerable as you know they will neither trash you nor patronize you. It is a safe environment and thus conducive to growth.
So what do we do? Our loved ones come in all different shapes and sizes. Many of our parents, siblings, friends and lovers are far from true mirrors. In fact, it is hard to say if any of us can even be 100% clear.
What we can do is to take note of how we feel after speaking to the different people in our lives. Take the time to reflect on the conversation and tune in to your emotional response. Do you feel more settled? Did their advice ring true? Or were you left feeling more disquieted and dissatisfied?
While we cannot change those around us, we can choose who we confide in. It might be worthwhile to deepen your relationship with your truest mirrors and re-examine those you have with the rest. Which is not to say don’t confide in them at all. Confiding is an act of sharing your soul and signals love, trust and acceptance. I love all the mirrors in my life and cannot imagine not sharing who I am with any of them. The important thing is to know how to reframe the input given by those who fall on the more extreme ends of the spectrum. Like the spirit level used by bricklayers, you can then make your own adjustments to ensure that the ‘truths’ you are building your self-understanding on are indeed level, and not askew.
It is a hard balance to strike, but one I feel is well-worth investing in.