The dim light of early day finds me standing in my bedroom, performing what has become an unfortunate morning ritual of mine.
I turn left, then right, and then twist around completely and glance over my shoulder. I feel myself frown as I let out an audible sigh.
I turn my body around one last time, determined to not give up just yet. I try straightening my back to make myself a little taller. I tuck my shirt into the front of my pants, and then, seconds later, I untuck it. I put my hands on my waist and angle myself sideways. I shift my weight from one hip and to the other. Finally, as a last resort, I squint, hoping that if I blur my vision, I’ll feel a little bit better about myself.
But I don’t.
Because staring back at me, in the mirror that hangs over my closet door, is a reflection I simply can’t stand: I see a girl who, just like me, looks completely defeated.
It appears neither of us like what we see.
* * *
I remember buying that mirror. I bought it on a day that will probably go down as one of my all-time favorite days ever:
Over a year and a half ago, just a week after I moved into my apartment, my parents, my daughter, Zoey, and I walked into Target together. Having moved only a few boxes and only a few pieces of furniture, I needed quite a bit of stuff. So we grabbed two carts and then proceeded to go on a shopping spree of epic proportions.
I’d budgeted $500 for this trip, so as the carts got fuller and fuller, I was keeping a mental tab on how much everything was going to cost. By the time we got to the last item on the list—a mirror—we were flirting with the top of that budget, so I grabbed the cheapest one I could find. It just seemed more important to spend the bulk of the money on other, more important things.
A $5 mirror would do just fine.
* * *
As I fell into the routine of my new life, I realized that cheap mirror, while it served its purpose, had a funny way of making me feel bad about myself. It curved outward so it didn’t lay flat against my door (yes, in a slight carnival, fun-house fashion), and every day, when I looked in it, a girl stared back at me that I just didn’t love. And because of that mirror, every day, I left my apartment not really liking who I was.
And for some inexplicable reason, I didn’t do anything about it. I let this go on day after day after day after day.
But then, about a month ago, my daughter, Zoey, and I were standing in the mirror aisle at Target. I caught a glimpse of myself in a better mirror than my own, and for a brief second, I thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if I looked like that every day?”
I went home, and for the next few weeks, I continued my morning ritual. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to keep doing this. I longed for the days of my youth, the ones where mirrors were not a window into self-defeat, but were a doorway to fun, fascination, and fantasy.
Do you remember being a young kid, looking at your reflection, and being amazed by the mirror’s magic? You’d try to move really fast to see if your reflection could keep up. If you had two mirrors, you’d make an infinite reflective tunnel. You’d strike a few of your best poses. You’d give your reflection a kiss. You’d make silly faces. You’d flash your best smile.
And as a kid, no matter what you did in front of that mirror, you liked what you saw. You didn’t criticize your appearance or doubt yourself. You didn’t focus on all your supposed flaws. You didn’t feel bad about yourself. You didn’t let whatever you saw in that mirror define who you were—and if you did, that was okay, because you loved who you were.
Yet for about 600 days from the date I bought that $5 mirror, my reality had been the opposite.
So finally, one day last week—on an ordinary day, just like all the others—I’d had enough of my silly morning routine.
Because life’s too short to start each day feeling bad about yourself.
Life’s too short to start each day feeling defeated.
Life’s too short to let a cheap, flimsy piece of glass prevent you from loving every little bit of who you are.
* * *
The day I decide that life’s too short to start every day not liking myself, I take that warped, $5 mirror off the back of my closet door. My daughter, Zoey, is happily playing in her room, so I call out to her that I’ll be right back, that I’m just going to the trash room.
“What are you throwing away?” she calls out. “Can I come with you?
Zoey walks out into the living room to find me standing there, holding the mirror. She smiles when she sees me, but after a moment, I realize she’s not looking at me—she’s looking at her reflection.
“Sure,” I say, pointing to the mirror. “I’m just getting rid of this.”
“Why do we have to get rid of it? Can I put it in my room?” she asks.
“But it’s cheap and warped,” I counter. “It doesn’t work as well as it should.”
Zoey shrugs. “I don’t care,” she says. “Please, can I keep it?”
I carry the mirror into Zoey’s room. After clearing a space on the floor next to a bin of her dress-up clothes, I lean it up against the wall and step back. Within what seems to be only seconds, Zoey has dressed herself up in one of the most mismatched outfits you’ve ever seen: a black leotard, white tights, a turquoise tutu, green butterfly wings, and a pair of blue, bejeweled plastic princess shoes. To top it off, on her head, she’s placed a headband that is adorned with pink, plush bunny ears.
She reaches up and grabs my hand, using it to balance herself as she gracefully twirls on one foot. I join in her dance, and we laugh and giggle until we finally collapse on the floor.
“Look, Mommy,” Zoey says. “The mirror works just fine—in fact, I think it works perfectly. Look how pretty we look.”
I glance at our reflections—me, happy, smiling, and looking at myself and at Zoey, my little princess bunny—and I dare say I have to agree. Because finally, after 600 days of staring in that mirror, I finally like what I see.
It turns out it wasn’t the mirror that was the problem.
It was my perception of my reflection in it.
I let Zoey keep the mirror, and later that weekend, we go back to Target. I splurge on a nicer one—a non-warped, heavy wood-framed one that stands on the floor and leans back, one that helps change my perception and one that does a much better job of helping me start my days out a little happier with who I am.
Funny though… I actually begin looking at myself a little less in that new mirror. I start trusting that I look good, and I start realizing that a little self-reflection serves me better than any mirrored reflection ever will.
So mirror, mirror, on the wall, tell me: Who really is the fairest one of all?
From now on, I think I’ll try a little bit harder to believe that maybe — just maybe — that person is me.
* * *
Let me know: Are you hanging onto something in your life that makes you feel bad about who you are? If so, why haven’t you gotten rid of it? What are some easy ways you can change a negative perception of yourself to a positive one?
Corey is a writer, graphic designer, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. Here at The Nostalgia Diaries, her goal is to simplify, enhance, and engage people’s lives by helping them focus on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.