The mirror

I’ve never been a person who’d stand in front of a mirror and inspecting her face often.

It was not just because I was not 100% satisfied with how I look. (“How stupid is that? I know… but it’s the problem for another time…) Plus, I was raised that way.

Most children I’ve seen have such a phase: they like to see themselves in a mirror. They can’t help themselves but looking at their reflections. They make faces, or try on household items like a pretty pillow cases or something on their heads… (What? Is that just me?)

I was one of these children.

There’s a big mirror in the hall way of the apartment of my grandparents, where I spent most of my childhood. It’s facing the apartment door and right in the center of the T section connecting all the other rooms. Since I was in kindergarten, I was good at doing performances like singing and dancing. Every adult said to my parents and grandparents that I was talented and very cute. Hearing that, I spent even more time making faces and pretending I was in a movie scene and appreciating my own performance in front of that mirror.

While other adults in my family making comments about me being “crazy in love with how I look”. They didn’t want to make me self-conscious on purpose. But they way they said it made me feel that looking at myself is something bad.

It’s self-indulgent, self-obsessed, shallow, and narcissistic.

Gradually, I stopped. When I passed by the mirror, I tried not to look at myself in the mirror; or when I did, I tried to do it without anyone seeing me.

My two cousins, who are boys, did the same. They got the same comment. And worse. “You have it worse than girls… so self-obsessed with appearance. Are you a girl?” The grownups said to them.

My mother was no advocate for a good and polished self-image.
She was very beautiful and everybody said so. But she seldom put on makeup and she said she was “too lazy” to take care of her skin. Oh, and makeup meant “lipsticks” for her. That’s all. In her family, caring about one’s own appearances is so bad that it’s like a crime. There was no mirror in her childhood home. She had to go to the bathroom in school to see if she had dirt on her face if no one told her before that.

When I went to college, my two best girlfriends from high school told me about what they’ve learnt in their first semester. One said: “I’m able to put on smoky eye makeup in 5 minutes.” The other one said: “I discovered how to re-apply my makeup quickly in this very humid climate… thank God!” I said: “I think I haven’t washed my face for the last three days… since I had no class and I just stayed in my dorm, watching movies and writing. And if I want to look at myself in the mirror, I will have to go to the shared bathroom for the whole floor…”

I took pride in that.

Because I value inner beauty more. I value knowledge, wisdom. I’m not shallow, not self-obsessed. Even if people tell me I’m pretty, I don’t look at myself in the mirror anymore because I’m just so not image-obsessed that I even get offended by thinking about my skin problem.

It backfired.

It turned out that, when I did notice my appearance and started to get self-conscious about almost everything with my body. And what made it worse? Feeling judged by others and by myself for I felt ashamed even by looking at the mirror.

Not anymore.

For years I was insecure with my body and my face. My body was not toned and my skin is not smooth. When I started living abroad, far away from my family, I started to look myself in the mirror and judge myself for being “not good enough” and then for “caring about appearance too much.”

Pregnancy changed everything for me. Because I was absolutely in love with my changing body. I can’t explain how it happened. One day I woke up, went to the bathroom, turned on the light.

There I was.

I didn’t know how great I would look with a big baby belly. People say it’s the hormones. But thank God the hormones stayed because I still like how I look now.

I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I have a belly still hanging. It was a sweet home for my baby daughter for 37 weeks and it’s perfect as how it is. It was never really about my body or my face. It was simply my relationship with the body. The vessel.

Now I still don’t look at my face closely every day in the mirror. But I always keep showing my baby our faces every time when we pass our mirror in the hallway. Yes, we’ve got a mirror there, too. It’s at the corner which you will definitely pass by on the way to the bathroom. Every time when we walk by, I would stop and make faces to her in the mirror. She always laughs after staring at her own face and mine in there for a while.

She still thinks it’s another baby. And that baby is her friend now.
We are all her friends.

Originally published at http://clearworddrops.com on March 17, 2022.

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Story lover/writer/creative/mother

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