Mirror, mirror in my mind; show the truth I want to find.
External Mirrors come in many forms and all reflect their truth. But these mirrors reflect an illusion: they show what we already believe.
The only way to understand our worth is by looking into an internal mirror.
- What Is Truth?
- Is It Possible That Nothing You’ve Heard About Yourself Is True?
What is Your Opinion of Yourself?
Is the view you have (of your worth) an accurate one? What if much of the feedback you’ve taken to heart has come from people who are themselves flawed:
- or simply eager to impose their own version of ‘truth’?
Worth Can Only Be Usefully Assessed Individually, Alone, Internally.
Truth is subjective. The term 'smoke and mirrors' is often used scornfully, when referring to 'truth'.
After digital manipulation came along, we realized that photographs - trusted for years - didn’t necessarily represent truth either. NASA’s recent revelations about their ‘earth from space’ photographs are a sharp reminder of that.
Consider some other ‘truths’ we once knew:
- 'The world is flat.'
- 'Nobody will have any use for the automobile.'
- 'Steel ships cannot float.'
- 'The moon is made of cheese.'
OK, not the last one. But most ‘truths’ are merely opinion.
A truth is simply ‘the prevailing view’. Without considering the implied irony, we generally acknowledge that truth is ‘what everyone believes’.
Is knowing the truth from others an important part of developing self-worth?
“What’s my value?”
It’s a question you’ll have had, as I first had in childhood, when I began to understand that my qualities or attributes would be compared to others.
Our parents or caregivers provided our initial terms of reference. We were told our gender, and a myriad of other things. We accepted everything as true. We learned which foods were ‘good’, what clothes were ‘normal’, that the road was unsafe, and ‘germs’ 101.
However, our caregivers were not only our first teachers; **they were our first mirrors
We learned about ourselves from their reflection of us. We heard we looked good, were good, and so on. Our caregivers reflected their opinions, hopes, expectations and dreams. And we soaked it all up as truth.
We hear: ‘Well done’; ‘Filthy clothes’; ‘Everyone needs a good job’; ‘Unions are essential’; All children need two parents’; ‘That’s worth a pass’; ‘Your work isn't good enough.’
Our view of our worth in the world is formed as a result of hearing or observing these ‘truths’, much of it before we’re old enough for school.
How Many Years Feedback Have You Received?
Perhaps the grown-up you is confident you only use accurate feedback. Others’ know you’, after all, and will ‘tell it like it is’. Of course, you do have filters up.
You ignore comments about your weight, and anything else you don’t think is relevant. The adult you is naturally more cautious than the child you once were. You’d never blindly accept something as fact without weighing it.
Or would you? Do those giving their opinions really know you?
Inaccurate Reflections of Our Qualities Compound Over Time.
We like mirrors.
The world’s been fascinated with mirrors - ‘looking glasses’ - since the first ones were created out of polished stone thousands of years ago. Even the earliest glass mirrors are ‘old’, dating from the first century CE.
Before cameras, mirrors allowed us to see ourselves. The earliest glass mirrors are ‘old’, dating from the first century CE. And we trust a mirror; the thing is simply a reflector.
Mirrors reflect the reality they see. But what if a mirror could talk? In Snow White, the wicked Queen consulted her mirror regularly.
But did she receive fact or opinion from it?
In the real world, a physical mirror only reflects our physical self. But that’s not what our heart wants. The reflection we really want is our value in the eyes of others.
Unfortunately, any reflection of our performance, appearance and attitude is not an impartial reflection, but a filtered appraisal.
Is it Ever Possible to Receive A True Sense Of Worth from Others?
In 1902, sociologist Charles Cooley published his concept of the ‘Looking Glass Self’, the idea that our view of our 'worthiness' comes from what we think others believe. Crucially, this may not be what they actually believe.
In Cooley's words, "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am.
Your Own Mind Knows You Better Than Anyone Else.
The looking glass is cracked. Instead of finding ourselves in the reflection given - either verbally or non-verbally - by others, we must look within ourselves.
And in a review of the ‘looking glass effect’ - given its widespread acceptance over decades - Viktor Gecas and Michael Schwalbe observed that Cooley hadn’t thought the ‘looking glass’ effect comprised the whole of our self-esteem.
Their take: that self esteem and worth may be more influenced by the effect of your own actions. In other words, what you do affects your image of yourself more than any impression you have of what others think.
Paths with action steps that help you see yourself have been well-marked. Small, repeated habits that achieve worthwhile things, and deliberate self-reflection, as in meditation or journaling, are two that many successful people use.
But is it Possible to Avoid the Glare Of Mirrors Others are Holding Up?
We receive feedback continually, and our minds soak it up, where everything is accepted as a truth unless we counter it.
So where is our truth? What is behind the mirror?
‘Behind the mirror’ is an analogy that both fiction and non-fiction writers have used extensively, famously by Lewis Carroll in his 1865 novel Through the Looking Glass, a follow-up to Alice in Wonderland.
Introspection - symbolically looking behind your internal mirror - is the way to refute your impression of ‘what others think’ by realizing what ‘you’ think. Introspective reflection discovers your true or inner self.
Looking Inward is The Only Way to Hear Your Own Truth.
Focus brings rewards. Author Sandy Grason, in her 2005 book Journalution, uses the prompts NO RULES and GO DEEPER.
You can ask yourself questions that imply a positive outcome, while imagining the emotion you’ll get from achieving that outcome. These make good questions to meditate on, as your mind becomes focused on the positive effects of the action you’ve taken (to have got that outcome).
A typical question could be (if a new level of fitness is one of your desires): “Why do I feel excited by my new appearance?”
And you could reflect on why you’re on the track you are, or what you like - or don’t - about it. If you give time to this process, you’ll reveal ‘behind the mirror’ beliefs.
What will you Discover if you Go ‘Deeper’ and ‘Ignore Rules’?
Set yourself a timer so you can frame your focus time. 10-15 minutes is a good amount of time to begin with.
Here are some possible challenges you could give your mind:
- “I’m not telling myself . . .” Invite your subconscious to show what it is hiding.
- Project ahead to when you’re 64, 84, 104. Imagine your life turned a corner onto the street where your dreams live. What have you experienced and what will you tell today’s version of yourself to help make it happen: “Over the last few years, I enjoyed most...”
What’s your truth, according to the mirror in your mind? And if it’s unpalatable, how will you start changing that, today?
Anthony is the author of Inspiration Language. Right now he lives on a small island in the Aegean, and writes about how people can use their values and dreams to make a difference in the lives of others.
His website is here: http://aretezen.com/blog