I have a dear friend from adolescence with whom I check in nearly every day. We haven’t lived in the same place for over 20 years, but thanks to technology, we can talk and text on the regular and stay current in each other’s lives, despite seeing each other very infrequently. The other day she sent me a mini-video of her relatively serious 4 year old son issuing a warning we should all heed: Objects in the mirror may be handsomer than they appear.
At first I just chuckled and thought that the dear creature was cute. But it really got me thinking. What if we all started thinking more in this way? How many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror and thought, “BLECH,” and then went on to silently critique your various physical “flaws”? What if we started giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt? What if we stopped with the ongoing, insidious negative voices? Even if just for a few days?
I know a great many people who spend their evenings replaying the conversations they had during the day and chastising themselves for not having said or done “the right thing,” as though there is ONE right thing. As though if you had said X vs. what you actually said, you would not HAVE TO BE so hard on yourself to correct what is inherently wrong with you. It’s as though we would be foolish to give ourselves a break.
We don’t start out in life with all the critical voices. However, there’s enough going on in this world that we often internalize the critiques we hear from others. Their voices become our voices, inside our heads. Which makes me think of another great source of wisdom: the character of Vivian Ward the Prostitute, played by Julia Roberts in the wide-screen classic, “Pretty Woman.” I still remember how I felt while sitting in the movie theatre when she refuted Richard Gere’s claim that she was, “a very bright, a very special woman,” with her response, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. Ever notice that?” Ouch. But not untrue, it would seem.
Let’s make the good stuff easier to believe. While a call to arms from a 4 year old and a movie hooker may be a bit strange, why not start believing the good stuff? That we are bright. That we are special. That the objects in our mirrors are handsomer than they may appear at that moment. It doesn’t make you foolish or ridiculous. To believe the good stuff doesn’t even mean that you are saying you are the best. But if we can believe that the object in the mirror is handsomer than it may appear, we can believe that we are at least slightly better than our worst fears. We are at least slightly better than how we fear we are being judged. That we may even—gasp!—approach being good enough.
So…the next time you are listening to the internal machine rip you to ribbons a piece at a time, try to challenge your own thinking. See what happens with practice. See if you start to feel even just a little bit better. Inching closer to good enough. As we start to shift our internal scripts away from self-criticism, we can find that compassion for ourselves that makes life easier. It builds on itself, helping us to believe that objects in the mirror are even handsome…not just handsomer than they may appear.