“All forms of self-defeating behaviour are unseen and unconscious, which is why their existence is denied.” -Vernon Howard
At 16 he whispers, “You’re beautiful.”
She smiles and turns away, nervously. It feels good to hear it, but never to believe it. At home, she doesn’t look into the mirror. The face across from her is not a face that she recognizes. The woman in the mirror is dressed in style, makeup on point, an air of confidence that she, herself, should possess, but doesn’t. She doesn’t want to face that girl today. At school, among crowded hallways, she hides her body under thick layers, hoping nobody notices the frail girl walking by, just wanting to disappear, always feeling like she is invisible. Placed on a scale of hierarchy, she is the overlooked foundation. And today she will laugh until the sky is filled with stars. But tomorrow there is a hollowness that no laughter can fill.
At 18 she blames herself, her family, her friends, for not loving her enough.
Perhaps for loving her the wrong way, perhaps for not loving at all. And she cries so that her voice goes unheard and the anger that she holds for herself spills down through her tears. She thinks it normal to feel this way, to constantly second guess every action, to never feel complete. No one has ever told her otherwise.
“We all go through obstacles,” she tells herself. “We all feel sad sometimes.”
She dreams of the woman in the mirror. That woman who stares back at her and challenges her to be complete. The woman whose eyes are dangerously daring her to delve into her own identity. But instead, she turns away and feels a loss. She has no identity in a world where everyone knows who to be.
She continues to depend on others to complete her. She continues to feel empty and self-conscious of every move she makes.
Should she stand like this? Do others think she is a misfit? No one would want to be close with someone like her. After all, she doesn’t know who she is.
It’s been this way for as long as she can remember. Her life is an act. She is on a stage pretending to have a personality. Pretending that she might find the courage one day to progress.
At 20 she believes that she has no power.
She will never have power like the woman in the mirror. So she does what she can to feel a sense of control. She tries to control her own world, because she is constantly so very aware that it is spiralling out of her grasp. She pushes away her friends, her lovers, her family. She is alone now. She is alone and there’s no one else to blame.
At 22 she feels nothing, and one lonely evening she looks into the mirror and cries.
Because the woman staring back at her is smiling. And she is strong and beautiful and she knows exactly who she is. This woman reflects no judgement and holds a realization that it is time for change. There is no one left to blame. There is only the woman in the mirror. ~
The woman in the mirror is me. I waited patiently. I waited for years to realize what I had within myself all along.
Growing up, I never knew who to be, and it was a problem that rooted deeper than most identity issues. I felt that I lacked the basic self-knowledge that most other people possessed. Life began to feel like I was reading someone else’s story. It couldn’t be my story. I didn’t recognize this girl. Even the most basic actions became difficult to do. No matter the setting, I always held on to the idea that my opinion didn’t matter, that my actions were always wrong, that my person, as a whole, was not worthy in any construct.
I punished myself and created habits of self-defeat. I convinced myself that I had failed before I could even begin. My mental and emotional state lacked the nourishment it needed in order to prevail over the image of myself that I had created. By defining myself as someone with lesser worth, my actions in turn were depicting this very idea.
I wanted to blame the exterior world. And for years, I resented my parents and blamed them for the way that I was. I acted out against friends and family and made excuses that screamed out
“I can’t help the way that I am.”
I continued on this way for far too long before the day came when I took a good hard look at myself and was not happy with what I saw.
There was something inside of me that was not being reflected in my character. There was something much deeper that was burning within me, trying to be set free. If I could only reach out to that something, maybe I could find the answers I was seeking.
I began to read, more than I had in years. I read teachings of old philosophies, I read modern-day self-realization techniques, and day by day, it began to help me to open up about my struggles. And, once I did, I realized I was not the only one who felt this way. Almost everyone goes through a period in their lives where they weigh themselves down.
Sometimes we are the very thing that is holding us back from our true potential.
I realized early on that a potential unreached is a life gone to waste. I decided to change my mindset and, therefore, change the entire outlook on life that I had formulated throughout the years. This change took time and a lot of patience. It took trial and error. It took days of me wanting to give up and telling myself that it was pointless. It took a lot of self-reflection of what I really wanted for myself.
I started asking myself why? Why did I feel less worthy? Why don’t I voice my opinion? Why do I feel so different? Why not me?
At the root of each answer came a repetitive realization: there was no answer.
There was no reason for me to be feeling this way. There was nothing holding me back. There was no one telling me that I couldn’t. There was only me. I was the only one standing in my way. And I was ready to face my faults head on.
In our society, admitting that we have flaws is often viewed as a sign of weakness. And so many people are ashamed to feel any emotion that may constitute as “weakness.” As a result, we internalize these feelings and hide them away from the rest of the world.
These feelings are basic human emotions. Fear. Loneliness. Sadness. Grief. We all go through it. Why is it then that we have been taught to pretend that we don’t?
There is no weakness in admitting that you feel these emotions. Real strength comes from the ability to reach out and put these feelings on display. Real strength is getting the right help that is needed in order to overcome these barriers in life. And with that strength comes the realization that it is possible to pull yourself out of a self-defeating mindset.
Looking back, I know now that I didn’t have to go through it all alone. I realize now that I have, and always have had, a family and friends that love and care for me. I neglected to see that for so many years that it became my norm.
The internal struggles I was facing had become a lifestyle that I was accustomed to, and I was hesitant to reach out and admit that I needed help.
Coming to terms with it and talking about it made me see the world in a whole new perspective. It helped me to overcome these obstacles and become the person that I always had the potential to be. It helped me to become the woman in the mirror.
I now face life with a new attitude. I am whole, I am strong, I am just as capable as any other human being. I can create beautiful things. I have a sense of self, but more importantly, a sense of self-worth. I can openly say that I am human, I make mistakes, I have plenty of faults and inner turmoil that I am working on conquering. But I also have plenty of beautiful characteristics that I used to mask under my insecurities.
I see now that these positive attributes were always within my power to obtain, always right there within my reach. All I had to do was believe that this girl existed.
All I really had to do was look in the mirror.
Read more of Valentina’s writing at https://modernpangea.com